DABC audit shows improvement; discussion moves forward

Posted at 11:48 AM, Jan 26, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-28 12:32:53-05

The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control audit showed some improvement made within the agency and the sale of alcohol in Utah.

On Thursday, the subcommittee voted to move the discussion forward to a standing committee.  At this stage, the public is invited to weigh in.

The audit also resulted in some recommendations.  These include new procedures for reporting shortages, creating an internal audit division and monitoring illegal sales to minors, which has been in effect since December.

"I think the audit itself is going to be very beneficial to us as legislators as we know we are going to be addressing some of the government's issues," said Rep. David Litvack, House Democratic Leader.  "That's going to be a difficult issue.  We are going to have some difficult choices, but I think the audit, this past audit, will help us in making those decisions."

The audit revealed alleged bid rigging and years of corruption.  The issues led to $300,000 in losses and the resignation of DABC executive director Dennis Kellen last year.

Since then, some lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, are calling for the government to get out of the Utah's multimillion dollar alcohol business.

"I'm uncomfortable with the state being in the retail business of alcohol," said Rep. Ryan Wilcox (R), of Ogden.  "Yes, I believe the state does best when we focus on our specific role as a state. In this case, I believe the state does a good job of public safety, focusing on law enforcement, focusing on appropriate regulation."

Earlier this month, democratic lawmakers held a public meeting where local restaurant and bar owners voiced their concerns.

"Stop micro-managing this industry," said Dave Morris, of Piper Down.

Members of the House and Senate hope to use the findings to help restructure the department to avoid corruption in the future, but no specific plans have been revealed.