WRAL Investigates

State liquor regulators adopt ethics reforms

Posted January 13, 2010

— The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission on Wednesday called for tougher ethics standards by liquor distributors and local ABC boards in the wake of recent reports of lavish salaries and extravagant parties.

The commission immediately banned liquor manufacturers and distributors from providing anything of value, from cash to a meal, to employees of the state-run alcohol sales system, including local ABC boards.

"This is going to change how (ABC) boards do business in this state," said Mike Herring, chief administrator of the state commission.

WRAL Investigates State liquor regulators adopt ethics reforms

Any company that violates the gift ban could have its state permit suspended or revoked, preventing it from selling alcohol in North Carolina.

The commission also urged local ABC boards to adopt travel policies that mirror the rules used by their county governments and to adopt a gift ban Gov. Beverly Perdue issued last fall for members of state-appointed boards.

Local ABC boards are independent entities, so the state commission can't require them to follow the recommendations. But state officials made it clear that they want the embarrassing stories of excess to stop.

"There is no way the public should be expected to foot the bill for select employees and family members to have a party of seemingly unlimited price and extravagance," state commission chairman Jon Williams said. "To think otherwise suggests a culture of entitlement at work that worries me."

Williams' statement referred to a $12,700 dinner that distiller Diageo North America hosted for members of the Mecklenburg County ABC Board and guests. The menu included lobster, crab cakes and steak, and the alcohol bill included Crown Royal and Dom Perignon.

The Mecklenburg County board last month reimbursed Diageo more than $9,300 for the November dinner.

WRAL Investigates also disclosed that New Hanover County ABC administrator Billy Williams made $214,000 a year and a $30,000 bonus and that his son, Bradley Williams made $115,500 and a $20,000 bonus as assistant administrator.

The Williamses also flew first-class on a trip to Phoenix, where they stayed in a resort hotel and rented a luxury car, according to expense reports. Jon Williams said it appears that taxpayers picked up the tab for the trip.

"Let's be clear," Jon Williams said, "every dollar that comes into the ABC system in this state is a dollar that belongs to the public. The public's money is not what is left over at the end."

All three members of that county's ABC board resigned last week as county officials called for a review of the salaries, and Williams submitted his retirement paperwork.

ABC liquor stores across the state have a wide range of employee salaries and policies. Fewer than half of the 163 local boards said they have salary policies, and a little more than half have an ethics policy in place.

Top 15 ABC board salaries

Click here to load this Caspio Bridge DataPage.

Perdue has ordered a review of local store administrator salaries, and her budget reform commission looking at the ABC system for possible changes.

"There is a statewide code of behavior and a statewide code of ethics and transparency that they will follow," Perdue said. "I hope they come voluntarily, but if they don't come voluntarily, we'll change the law and make them come."

18 Comments

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  • oldschooltarheel Jan 15, 12:37 p.m.

    ya think, White Eagle? The ABC "sin control" racket is way past its prime & clearly inculcated with career & generational nepotics who sorely need relocation. Furthermore the current system provides gross limitations - lots of sweet syrupy concoctions but very limited on high end liquors. Sad to need to pick up a decent bottle of Armanac when traveling out of state. WOW - the price differences too! Over legislation at its finest.
    The comment about how awful letting private industry do what it does best - really now, have a look at innumerable states- more selectiom, better prices, how would a liquor store (even an emporium LOL) be like Enron? Really? (shaking head in wonderment & backing away from screen)

  • manofjustice Jan 15, 12:28 p.m.

    I would like to open a liquor store so I can make a salary of 200,000 a year with a 30,000 bonus.

  • White Eagle Jan 14, 10:42 a.m.

    I agree with earlier comments, the state should just get out of the liquor business. Let it be private and let the state collect taxes. Based on the chart provided, just for the top 15 employees, the state would save $1.7 mil in salaries. Think how much could be saved if they got rid of all those employees and still be able to collect taxes on the liquor! Sounds like cronyism to me.

  • teacher-mom Jan 13, 7:15 p.m.

    Close the door after the horse has left the barn.

  • boingc Jan 13, 3:54 p.m.

    lol @ bcc

    Yes, pbjbeach might want to try spell check next time. Wouldn't be a bad idea to invest in a grammar tutorial as well...

  • bcc Jan 13, 3:49 p.m.

    I think pbjbeach may have stopped by ABC before posting...

  • Vietnam Vet Jan 13, 3:37 p.m.

    "This is going to change how (ABC) boards do business in this state,"
    SURE IT IS... Another state run farce!!

  • pbjbeach Jan 13, 3:05 p.m.

    If you people out there think that the ncgovernment is corrupt which it is but just wait until it is pravitized an sold off to indivsuals an then you wiil see the real corruption along with the state willl be lossing the revenue from the states budget . Can anyone out there say enron, worldcom an many more to numberous to mention thank you

  • jrfergerson Jan 13, 1:56 p.m.

    I agree with state commission chairman Jon Williams when he said:"There is no way the public should be expected to foot the bill for select employees and family members to have a party of seemingly unlimited price and extravagance”. Williams' statement referred to a $12,700 dinner that distiller Diageo North America hosted for members of the Mecklenburg County ABC Board and guests. The menu included lobster, crab cakes and steak, and the alcohol bill included Crown Royal and Dom Perignon.”” We taxpayers already pay the liquor bills for the Federal Gov. parties and as far as the state: this is a bit too much - THERE IS NO WAY I AM AGREEING WITH FOOTING THE BILL AS A TAXPAYER FOR BOOZE. This is disgusting.

  • morgannyy Jan 13, 1:07 p.m.

    ALL GREAT COMMENTS! I do think the state should see the common theme here and react!

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