George Griffin is no longer the director of Montgomery County’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC).
Timothy Firestine, the county’s chief administrative officer, announced Griffin’s departure in a memo sent Friday to DLC staff.
“Effective today at 5:00 p.m., Mr. Griffin will be moving on from his position as Director of the Department of Liquor Control,” Firestine wrote.
Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for the county, confirmed Griffin was leaving the department.
“It’s time for a change,” Lacefield said. “There’s going to be a national search to replace him.”
When asked if Griffin's departure had to do with the problems at the department that have been detailed during County Council committee meetings and news reports over the past year, Lacefield said, “It is what it is.”
In the memo, Firestine thanked Griffin for his 21 years of service to the county. He also wrote that Fariba Kassiri, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, will be the acting director of the department until a permanent director can be appointed.
The DLC handles the wholesale distribution of all alcohol in the county and also runs the county’s 25 retail stores, which control the sales of all spirits in the county. The county’s unique alcohol monopoly has come under intense scrutiny recently, with some lawmakers, led by state Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda), supporting state legislation that would call for a referendum to let voters decide if the monopoly should remain.
The department has been criticized for problems such as inaccurate deliveries, poor customer service, a cumbersome Oracle inventory system and high prices on certain products.
Just before the busy holiday restaurant season in December, the department admitted it had made a “human error” that resulted in missed deliveries to restaurants and retail beer and wine stores on Dec. 23, 24, 28 and 29. Griffin signed an apology letter that was sent to the businesses on Dec. 30. The missed deliveries left several local restaurant owners frustrated and they said the mishap hurt their businesses.
“The problems over New Year’s were really serious,” County Council member Hans Riemer said in an interview with Bethesda Beat Friday. “The DLC is a large organization with a lot of employees and if they didn’t make a change at the top after the disaster of New Year’s, it would have sent a signal that there’s really no accountability at all.”
Riemer, who chairs the council committee that has reviewed the DLC’s operations over the past year, also said that he believes more management changes are needed at the department.
“George is a nice man, and he’s had a long run there, but it’s time for the county to demonstrate that it takes the concerns of the businesses it works with very seriously,” Riemer said.
The department nets the county an estimated $34 million in profit per year. County Executive Ike Leggett and eight of nine members of the County Council have said this revenue is integral to the county’s operating budget.
Griffin did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday evening.