(June 27, 2014) Mum’s the word – at least officially – at City Hall this week after the return of a city official who had been suspended for drinking on the job.
Those involved with the issue on the city’s side would only say that it was a “personnel matter,” with the official in question saying they “want to leave this behind and move forward.”
The city does not typically disclose individual personnel decisions.
However, this particular incident stands to have wider implications, given that it has exacerbated the already tense relationship between the city and the Ocean City Brewing Company, and raised the issue of favoritism in City Hall.
As reported last week, the official was suspended for five days after returning intoxicated from performing the final Certificate of Occupancy inspection at the OC Brewing Company.
The official arrived at the brewery already drunk, and did not consume any more alcohol while there, according to brewery staff. The official then drove back to City Hall in a city-issued vehicle, arousing the suspicions of co-workers.
Although the OC Brewing Company has been operating in the two weeks since the inspection, the business said they’ve faced increased scrutiny, conflicting opinions, and allegedly punitive action by the town.
“We were told we had to cut our fence down to a certain height, and then a few days later someone else came by and said they had decided it should have been higher,” said brewery owner Josh Shores. “So now we’re ripping out the fence and putting in another new one.”
In the city’s defense, Planning and Community Development Director Matt Margotta said that a number of issues had not been taken care of at the time the brewery opened.
“The bottom line is that they met the bare requirements to open to the public, but there are a lot of things they were scrambling to get done and we accommodated the best we could,” Margotta said.
More critically, however, the incident has stoked unrest amongst city employees over what seems to be a light punishment for a serious offense – particularly by someone widely seen in person and via social media to have advantageous relationships with those above them.
City Manager David Recor has not responded to requests for comment.
Per the city’s personnel policy manual, alcohol and drug violations while on the job are considered “major incidents” that can result in immediate termination if deemed necessary.