HARRISBURG -- A trio of top officials at the state Liquor Control Board accepted gifts and favors from vendors and other businesses with an interest in liquor, the state Inspector General's Office has concluded in a confidential report.
The report, a copy of which has been obtained by The Inquirer, was submitted to Gov. Corbett's office in late March. An inspector general's spokesman said the matter was also referred to the state Ethics Commission.
The report names LCB chief executive officer Joe Conti, board member Patrick J. "P.J." Stapleton III, and marketing director James Short as having accepted gifts and favors, including wine and tickets to sporting events and golf tournaments.
Golf, jobs: It says one LCB vendor secured a round of golf with a pro for Stapleton during a tournament at Aronimink -- and sent two employees to serve as Stapleton's caddies.As for Conti, the report suggests the $156,000-a-year LCB executive lobbied a vendor and pressed others inside and outside the agency -- including Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr -- for jobs for his brother and daughter.
Conti, Stapleton, and Short declined through LCB spokeswoman Stacey Witalec to be interviewed for this article.
Witalec said, "The board has never been presented with the report, or notified of any formal investigation. We will be prepared to discuss any details when formally notified."
John Contino, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said Monday that his agency neither confirms nor denies the existence of any investigation.
The eight-page report is the second prepared by Inspector General Kenya Mann Faulkner to come to light in recent days. The Inquirer reported Sunday that her office had forwarded to administration officials a report lambasting the work habits of the LCB's administrative law judges, who hear cases involving liquor code violations.The reports have surfaced as the legislature ponders whether to privatize the LCB. Debate on a House bill to privatize the system had been scheduled to resume Monday but was postponed.
Kevin Harley, Corbett's spokesman, called the three LCB officials named in Faulkner's latest report "vestiges" of past administrations -- Conti, for example, was installed by Gov. Ed Rendell. Harley said that since taking office in January 2011, Corbett has been "trying to clean up and fix state government . . . and will continue to do so."
At its beginning, Faulkner's report noted that the state Ethics Act bars officials from using their positions to benefit themselves or their families -- and that state liquor law makes it a felony for LCB employees and their relatives to receive gifts from vendors. Penalties include firing and possible prosecution.
Faulkner wrote that her agency's watchdog role was limited because the liquor board is an independent agency and its officials could not be compelled to cooperate. As a result, she wrote, investigators did not interview LCB employees or vendors.But they did review e-mails sent on state computers and concluded that the Ethics Act had been breached.