A local neighborhood group is latching on to a probe of the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s chair, alleging the official allowed conflicts of interest to interfere with granting liquor licenses and other rulings.
Mayor Vincent Gray’s office began an investigation of chair Charles Brodsky after a former board member accused Brodsky of helping to change policy for a liquor wholesaler in which Brodsky had a private interest. After the allegations prompted the investigation, The Washington Examiner also reported last month that Brodsky is friends with Emanuel Mpras, the attorney for Washington Wholesale Liquor Co., and their relationship was being examined.
The Advisory Neighborhood Commission is also requesting a look into Brodsky and Mpras’s relationship, citing recent approval of liquor licenses at Shadow Room and yet-to-be-opened Sanctuary 21, two local nightclubs whose owners Mpras represents. Commissioners have voiced multiple concerns about Shadow Room, saying the establishment diminishes the quality of life in the neighborhood.
Mpras did not return request for comment.
The commission passed a unanimous resolution at its meeting this month, requesting that a different body, the city’s inspector general, investigate Brodsky in regard to conflicts of interest between his business interests and public duties, specifically in regard to licensing for Shadow Room and Sanctuary 21.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission Chair Rebecca Coder said Brodsky came before the commission in October asking for support for his for-profit business, the Nation’s Triathlon, “which creates the conflict of interest, given he also chairs ABC board hearings related to taking actions involving ANC 2A.”
Commissioners had no objection to the Nation’s Triathlon or Washington, D.C. Triathlon, both of which close streets in Foggy Bottom for their routes.
At the same meeting, the commission objected to the renewal of Shadow Room’s liquor license. The next protest hearing for Shadow Room’s license renewal is scheduled for May 4.
Coder said that as part of upcoming license hearings, the ANC will ask that Brodsky recuse himself from “anything related to Shadow Room [or] Sanctuary 21” in the future.
“Brodsky, in the recent Shadow Room/Sanctuary 21 hearings, made some bewildering [rulings] which routinely favored his friend,” she said.
Commissioner Asher Corson said typically, when certain ABC Board applicants changed representation, Brodsky’s behavior seemed to change.
“All of a sudden we noticed the disposition of the ABC Board shift,” Corson said.
Brodsky said he is aware of the ANC’s resolution, but said the attorney general’s office has issued a memorandum that clears him of any potential ethical conflicts in attending ANC meetings to ask for support for his business.
The memo, allegedly issued by former Attorney General Peter Nickles, hasn’t been made public and Brodsky declined to provide the memo to The Hatchet.
Brodsky said it would be fine if an ABC Board item was on an ANC meeting’s agenda, and he didn’t stay for discussion, but he will have another person from the Nation’s Triathlon speak to ANCs in the future.
He acknowledged that he knows Mpras, but added that his relationship had “nothing to do with anything” when it came to liquor license hearings.
Brodsky said he has no plan to recuse himself from future cases.
“I’m very capable of being impartial,” he said.
Brodsky added that, if ANCs are unhappy with decisions made by the ABC Board, they can appeal.
“I’m only one of seven people,” he said of the board’s rulings.
Brodsky, an alumnus who lived in Foggy Bottom, said he likes the local ANC and respects the resolutions that are passed.
“I don’t have anything personal against these folks,” he said.
So far, Brodsky said he hasn’t heard anything from the D.C. Inspector General’s office about the requested investigation.
Roger Burke, an alumnus, and chief of staff for D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby, declined to comment on whether the ANC’s request was received, or if the office is investigating Brodsky.
Ron Collins, director of the Office of Boards and Commissions, declined to comment on the status of the current investigation Friday.
Gray has already said that he won’t reappoint Brodsky when his term is up in May 2012.