ShareThis Page
Home

Hiring mars liquor board, ex-chair says

| Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007

HARRISBURG -- Heavy-handed politics by Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in secretly engineering a $150,000-a-year post of CEO for the state Liquor Control Board last month damaged the agency's image, the board's former chairman told a Senate panel Tuesday.

Jonathan Newman, praised by one senator for bringing the LCB "out of the dark ages," told the Senate Law and Justice Committee the move by Rendell that led him to resign "forever politicized" the $1.6 billion liquor agency.

The board's rubber-stamping of Rendell's handpicked CEO, former state Sen. Joe Conti, of Bucks County, happened less than 24 hours after Newman was told about it, he testified, calling it a "power grab."

Newman, of Montgomery County, said he objected to the salary and the lack of transparency. Contending the new position of CEO usurps the powers of the board, Newman said he had no choice but to resign on Jan. 3 from his $65,000-a-year job.

The way it was handled showed "a complete disregard for the Legislature," said Sen. John Pippy, R-Moon.

Patrick Stapleton, the new LCB chairman appointed by Rendell, said the board needs a CEO, and that he's been working on that for 10 years. "Pennsylvania negotiated a great deal to find a CEO to do this job," Stapleton said, citing private sector salaries.

"Under this job description, there's no abrogation of responsibilities" by the board, Stapleton said.

While Newman said there should have been a national search, Sen. Michael Stack, D-Philadelphia, said, "Pennsylvania sort of functions in its own world, and Senator Conti has unique qualifications."

Supporters noted Conti's experience as a liquor licensee and as former chairman of the Law and Justice Committee.

Sen. Sean Logan, D-Monroeville, said Rendell's choice of Conti needs to be viewed in the context of other political appointees by other governors to agencies such as the Turnpike Commission and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

Kate Philips, Rendell's spokeswoman, said Newman "is a disgruntled ex-chairman, so I am not surprised" by his testimony. "Today's hearing made it very clear that (hiring Conti) was a wise move and long overdue."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me