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Retired Liquor Control Board chief executive collects $5,255 monthly pension, $80-per-hour pay

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 9:13 p.m.

Retired Liquor Control Board chief executive Joe Conti is collecting a $5,255 monthly pension while earning $80 an hour to serve the agency as an “emergency” consultant, according to records from the State Employees Retirement System.

Conti, who retired from his $156,700-a-year post Feb. 2, was rehired Feb. 19 to help the LCB prepare for legislative budget hearings held this week in the state House and Senate.

LCB spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman has said Conti also will help with the transition to a new chief executive and a new director of administration.

Records obtained by a Right to Know request show Conti withdrew a lump sum of $151,045.81 from his pension, leaving him with an annual payout of $63,058.

Retirees can withdraw any portion of their retirement contributions plus 4 percent interest compounded annually, said Pamela Hile, spokeswoman for the retirement system.

Conti, 58, a self-described “bartender by birth” and former restaurant owner, represented Bucks County in the state House and Senate from 1993 to 2006. He was appointed chief executive of the LCB in December 2006 by Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

His pension is based on his 13 years as a lawmaker and his six years as CEO, records show.

The CEO post had been vacant for more than two decades before Conti's appointment, and the move so angered then-LCB Chairman Jonathan Newman that he resigned.

Gov. Tom Corbett has said he favors abolishing the position, but his Office of Administration signed off on the LCB's request to bring Conti back under the emergency “return to service” arrangement.

Under the agreement, Conti is limited to working 95 days this year at $80.16 per hour. His hourly wage is based on his salary at the time of retirement. One day is considered 7.5 hours, but any hours worked beyond a half day is counted as a full day, Hile said.

Conti's supporters credit his six-year tenure with the agency as boosting profit and improving store operations, while detractors criticize the LCB's failed program that put wine kiosks in grocery stores and the agency's development of eight in-house brands of wines and spirits.

Conti testified before state House and Senate appropriations committees this week alongside LCB Chairman Joseph “Skip” Brion and board member Robert Marcus to tout record-breaking state store sales and advocate for measures they say would “modernize” the agency, such as expanding Sunday sales and allowing more flexibility in pricing.

When announcing his retirement, Conti said he was leaving the agency to pursue future opportunities in higher education and the private sector.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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