Liquor audit
A.G. should probe possible crimes
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With each successive audit, the scandal at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has deepened. The latest one recommends the opening of a criminal investigation of the former director of licensing and compliance. The attorney general should follow that evidence wherever it leads.

Earl Dorius, the former DABC official referenced in the audit, resigned his position in March after he was confronted by auditors for accepting gifts of meals from a personal friend who ran businesses that had eight liquor licenses. According to the audit, accepting such gifts would be a violation of state law that could amount to criminal conduct. The audit says that his letter of resignation contained the sentence, "I am hereby submitting this letter of resignation from the department for the reason that I received gifts from a licensee."

The extent of the gifts that Dorius received is not clear from the audit, and may not be known. That's for the attorney general to determine, together with appropriate charges, if any.

If this were the extent of the DABC scandal, it would be small potatoes. But it's not. Previous audits have revealed a cover-up when a privately owned package store failed, an alleged scheme by former director Dennis Kellen to steer tens of thousands of dollars worth of contracts to his son's business, and double dipping by former administrators who took state retirements, then came back to their old jobs immediately after short waiting periods.

The latest report by the Legislative Auditor General adds to the bill of particulars against the liquor agency:

• It relied on inaccurate data and poor programming to track inventory;

• Warehouse operations lacked sufficient policies and procedures to safeguard merchandise;

• Inventory control at retail stores should be improved and security enhanced;

• DABC has been overcharged for parts and labor since 2003, and paid a service vendor more than $2 million without adequate oversight;

• DABC has used the Liquor Control Fund to cover operating expenditures, essentially appropriating money to itself;

• Ethics training must be improved.

That last item is the kicker that follows from everything that comes before.

The state liquor monopoly is a $300 million operation that generates $107 million in state and local revenues. Money like that attracts abuse, especially if management is slipshod.