Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Watchdog Found Graft Involving 3 at Lcb March Report Sent to Corbett's Office, State Ethics Panel

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Watchdog Found Graft Involving 3 at Lcb March Report Sent to Corbett's Office, State Ethics Panel

Article excerpt

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 Philadelphia Inquirer, was submitted to Gov. Tom 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.

It says one LCB vendor secured a round of golf with a pro for Mr. Stapleton during a tournament at Aronomink Golf Club -- and sent two employees to serve as Mr. Stapleton's caddies.

As for Mr. Conti, the report suggests the $156,000-a-year LCB executive lobbied a vendor and pressed others -- including restaurateur Stephen Starr -- for jobs for his brother and daughter.

All three declined to be interviewed.

Ethics Commission executive director John Contino said Monday that his agency neither confirms nor denies the existence of any investigation.

The eight-age 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.

At its start, Ms. Faulkner's latest 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.

Ms. 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. …

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