After spending two-and-a-half hours in executive session, members
of the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission took less than
five minutes to fire the agency's executive director on a 5-2 vote
The group's monthly meeting was dominated by emotional debate
from agency law enforcement agents, who urged the ouster of
Executive Director Gary Davidson, and business officials from across
the state who supported the embattled director.
Former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer was
among the restaurateurs voicing support of Davidson. Switzer, whose
support for Sen. Brad Henry has been cited as one reason for Henry's
come-from-behind victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary
last week, wasn't as effective when it came to saving Davidson's
Switzer, who noted that he was "no stranger to criticism" as head
of OU's football program, said Davidson was in a similar position to
a football coach who is being second-guessed by spectators. However,
Switzer said he believed Davidson had the agency on the "proper
course" based on his interactions with the agency as a restaurant
owner, and said state budget problems outside Davidson's control --
forcing cutbacks at the commission -- have led to recent complaints.
"The agency head can only do what funding allows," Switzer said.
J.P. Richard, owner of Cache Road Discount Liquor and Wines in
Lawton, told commission members that he believed Davidson is the
"most well-balanced, sensible director" that he's seen at the agency
since first entering the liquor business in 1974.
Verej Jazirvar, manager of The Petroleum Club in downtown
Oklahoma City, said Davidson has always been responsive to the
business community. "You know his office is open," Jazirvar said.
"You know you're going to get a fair hearing with him."
But ABLE Commission agents said Davidson has prevented the
agency's agents from effectively enforcing liquor laws. Greg Bynum,
an assistant special agent in charge at the agency, said Davidson
has not been responsive to agents in the field. Gary James, an
attorney representing the liquor law agents association, said
Davidson's administration has hamstrung law enforcement.
"The laws are not being enforced," he said, and declared the
agency was "off course."
Kent James, a senior agent, noted that the commission has been
flooded with letters and calls from regulated individuals voicing
support for Davidson. "If he is retained as director, who will he
owe?" James asked.
Following the vote, Davidson said, "I have enjoyed my association
with the ABLE Commission. …