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More LCB woes: A telling probe

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

The Liquor Control Board's two-and-a-half-year binge on private-label wine and spirits brands that compete with the private sector on its own store shelves has left it with a massive hangover, prompting Chairman Joseph E. “Skip” Brion to investigate.

Competent management would have done such due diligence — and stopped this ill-advised idea — long ago.

At issue is not just the in-house TableLeaf wine brand, about which Executive Director Joe Conti and Marketing Director Jim Short can't get their stories straight. Seven other such brands are involved.

Mr. Brion — nominated for his post in July 2011 and chairman for about a year — says he wasn't told about any private-label brands until he'd been on the job for about four months. He also says that he wasn't told that a July vote on selling Vinestone boxed wine concerned a private-label brand. And all eight private-label brands weren't identified as such to LCB members before votes on them, according to Brion.

That suggests top LCB officials might have been kept in the dark deliberately by parties unknown with agendas of their own. And that Brion and his colleagues failed to do homework they should have done.

Add word of a state Ethics Commission probe into alleged acceptance of vendors' gifts and favors by Messrs. Conti, Short and former LCB member Patrick Stapleton and it's apparent just how appallingly mismanaged the LCB is — and just how badly privatization is needed.

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