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The LCB: Shhhhhh! Secret!

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Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

Among the Liquor Control Board's worst disservices to Pennsylvanians is its lack of transparency in running the state's archaic wine-and-spirits monopoly.

The LCB's twice-monthly meetings often last only 15 to 20 minutes. A Trib analysis of LCB meeting records covering nearly three years and attendance at meetings also reveals little, if any, public discussion before nearly always unanimous votes.

Those are signs of real decision-making done outside public view and merely ratified at public meetings. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, says it is “difficult, if not impossible, for the average citizen to follow” LCB business.

The LCB's Sunshine Act shortcomings are evident in its latest venture into in-house, private-label brands that compete with private-sector brands. Those in-house products were approved at public LCB meetings — but agendas and minutes show LCB members didn't know specifically that they were voting on private-label brands.

Chairman Joseph “Skip” Brion admits to routine, nonpublic meetings involving LCB members and staff. And records also show regular “notational votes” taken outside public LCB meetings — Sunshine Act violations if done to avoid public votes.

The LCB's lack of transparency is a symptom of its arrogant, government-knows-best approach — which desperately needed privatization would cure.

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