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Governor’s review on DABC recommends pay raises, customer service and more product in liquor stores

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Posted at 10:57 AM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 20:52:59-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A review released by Governor Gary Herbert's office recommends improvements in customer service, better ways of stocking liquor stores and pay hikes for employees of Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The report, a 90-day review of the state of complaints about the liquor control authority, was released on Tuesday. It was created in response to numerous comments from employees and the public about conditions at state-run liquor stores.

"I think the recommendations can be implemented. Some may take longer than others," Sal Petilos, the executive director of the DABC, said in an interview Tuesday with FOX 13.

From the report:

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The Governor's Office of Management and Budget, which did the review, said it would push the legislature for a pay increase to improve employee morale and reduce turnover. It would also take a look at employee complaints about DABC policies.

"Work groups have been established so management and employees can work together, working through problems. It’s going to be an important step," Kristen Cox, the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget Director, said in an interview with FOX 13 on Tuesday.

Petilos said he wants employees to know management is looking at ways to improve things in the department, but noted that the governor's office has urged "efficiencies" in operations within all state agencies. He said a centralized ordering system that has been the subject of complaints would stay, but store managers would have more discretion over products for that particular location.

When it came to customer complaints, the governor's office said it would ask the DABC to do more to reduce running out of products, add new products and increase collaboration between DABC management and individual liquor stores.

The review makes no mention of whether the DABC will have any increased control over its budget, as one state lawmaker has proposed. The DABC makes hundreds of millions of dollars in profit from liquor sales, but has no control over its own budget. The money instead goes to public safety, school lunches and the state's general coffers.

At monthly DABC commission meetings, former employees have lined up to lodge complaints against the agency.

"Employees are working in understaffed stores without full-time managers. There are 44 liquor stores and 23 are run by a manager with more than one store. They are getting physically and emotionally drained by extra hours they have to work due to staff shortages," Kerri Adams, the former DABC human resources manager who often acts as an unofficial spokeswoman for liquor agency employees, wrote in an email to FOX 13.

Reacting to the report, she said employees place much of the blame at upper-level DABC management.

"They have a Gotcha management style which looks for what is wrong and not what is right. They need to empower store managers to manage by letting them place their own orders, hire their own employees and by doing away with Best Practice processes that are weighing down stores with paperwork that doesn't lead to improved customer service," Adams wrote.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, has said he does not necessarily believe the DABC needs increased control over its own budget but said the legislature would review the liquor authority's practices. He told FOX 13 he is also considering restructuring licensing in a way that could free up more licenses for restaurants and bars.