WRAL Investigates

New Hanover ABC board members resign amid salary review

Posted January 4, 2010

— All three New Hanover County Alcoholic Beverage Control board members resigned Monday, the same day county commissioners planned to discuss the salary of the ABC board's administrator.

In their resignation letter, Chairman Charles Wells and members Richard Hanson and Stephen Culbreth said "the divisiveness of the continuing disputes (have) become more insidious and disruptive of the functioning of the ABC system."

While Wells earned $3,000 and Hanson and Culbreth earned $2,400 last year, they oversaw the highest-paid ABC administrator in the state who made $214,000 a year with a $30,000 bonus, even though Mecklenburg County does triple the sales.

"In order to allow the dissipation of misunderstandings emerging from a sector of the public's perception of our performance as Board members of this ABC system, we hearby resign," the letter stated.

ABC liquor stores across the state have a wide range of employee salaries and policies. That's because the state ABC commissioner has little say in how business is done, even though liquor sales are government-controlled in North Carolina.

“We don’t have any operational control over them at all,” said ABC Commission Chair Jon Williams, who noted that each store is controlled by a local board. “Those 163 local boards are individual government offices."

One reason is that job responsibilities may differ from place to place. State officials said they aren’t sure, because no one tracks the information. At the direction of Gov. Bev Perdue, the state commission asked local ABC stores to submit salary and policy information.

Fewer than half of the boards said they have salary policies. As for ethics, a little more than half of the boards have a policy in place. Even then, the employees might still be allowed to accept gifts from industry members.

New Hanover ABC officials said they have both ethics and salary policies in place. Their members are prohibited from receiving gifts. However, the ethics policy allows for payment of meals or other travel expenses by industry members or private dollars.

Some boards, such as Brunswick County, let supervisors and managers accept meals and golf privileges from vendors as long as it is offered to all managers and supervisors. In Angier, the ethics policy allows for meals from liquor industry representatives.

The state is only allowed to step in if there's proof a law was broken.

By gathering salary and policy information, state commission officials said they hope to let the public know what's going on with the boards.


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  • commonsence Jan 5, 2010

    Terminate the states business with this and let the private sector take it over. It is obvious that there are no business minded people in control. The state and local goverment will still get thier taxes, and the consumer will have more selection and competetion will yeild better prices. If this does not change, the vote for Pat McCory for GOV, he will change this. I think that the stae and local goverments would yeild more tax dollars just based on the increased volume of sales. Everyone wins, except for the guys who can't make a go of it now, if you can make a profit selling booze with a monopoly then you need to work for someone else.

  • skeeter II Jan 4, 2010

    There is a form of privatization in that the county ABC Board run the ABC stores in their county -- not the county or state government!!

    The State runs the liquor warehouse that the local ABC Boards must purchase the liquor from. The "economy of larger purchases" means the cost, including the warehousing and delivery, is cheaper than each local Board purchasing directly from a liquor company or distributor.

    As I understand it, the "profits" do not go to the County or State unless the local county ABC Board votes to "make a donation to the county or to the State." Years ago, High Point was "dry" and the most profitable Guilford County ABC store was on the county border next to High Point.

    Don't know why a liquor salesman would need to visit the local Board or individual stores.


  • bombayrunner Jan 4, 2010

    drjones74 ... man, I'm conservative. Never looked at it that way but I think you're right!

  • RAINDOG Jan 4, 2010

    Another example of just how backward North Carolina is in some respects. They still operate with the "good old boy" mentality.

  • bombayrunner Jan 4, 2010


    Sounds like half have everything to hide and the other half are hiding half of everything. ... but everyone plays GREAT GOLF!

  • Pulling for the Tarheels Jan 4, 2010

    The issue isn't the $ of the booze, it's the salary's that each individual county has allowed these folks to get. It's no different than an Admin Assistant in one Dept being paid more than an Admin Assistant in a different Dept. (Admin Assist is an Admin Assist and should be same salary) - however, if you are the Admin Assist to the County Manager/Commissioners I can almost guarantee your salary will be higher than any other Admin Assist.

  • justiceforall Jan 4, 2010

    Gee, think they may have something to hide?

  • bombayrunner Jan 4, 2010

    Moved here 15yrs ago. It is a little odd not seeing a liquor store on every other corner. Hard to find a corner bar to shoot a game of pool with the boys or dance with a woman. Things that ordinarily made me feel like I'm in a free country. When you do find some little bar it is full of the 'regular entitlement crowd' that kinda drives others away.
    My dad owns a great bar in a big city and that state has a lot of liquor stores. Things thrive fairly well I think and it is not as boaring ... trust me, this place is boaring.
    For a state known to have good family values and a gripping control over fun things ... NC is for you. But you have to live with an overtone of good'ole boy politics and a level of boredom. I've learned to deal with it and enjoy those other things whenever I go back home for a visit.

  • alx Jan 4, 2010

    They should pay the taxpayers of NC back...another stain on the Perdue admimistration.

  • rand321 Jan 4, 2010

    Its an outdated archanic system dating back to the days of the early 20th century. Just one more facet of out antiquated, out moded, ill suited State and local government strucutred for a NC of yore and not the NC of the 21st century.
    Reform how NC governmetn provides things to its citizens before raising taxes. Thats where the true budget savings lies, not in ordering paperclips and copy paper.