Are you as shocked as I?
And, yeah, I know, the timing of these reports, surfacing in two Inky stories — one Sunday, one Tuesday — might seem suspect given there's a legislative effort, albeit a lame one, to privatize the booze biz.
I mean, the inspector general, Kenya Mann Faulkner, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Philly, is an appointee of Gov. Corbett, who wants privatization.
A cynic might suggest that investigating the LCB could have been prompted to assist an administration priority.
A true cynic also might suggest that the reports then were leaked to a big-city newspaper standing to gain ad revenue under a private system.
Ah, but there's a bug in the beer, a worm in the tequila, a bee in the Beaujolais.
As I've written several times, dumping the state stores will not fly in an election year, if ever. And Tuesday, the prime dumper, House GOP Leader Mike Turzai, of Pittsburgh, officially chugged down hopes for now.
He says until the fall. I say he's dreaming.
But back to the reports, as reported in the Inky.
One says top LCB brass — CEO Joe Conti, board member Patrick Stapleton and marketing boss James Short — took gifts and favors from hooch distributors with agency contracts, which, if true, is a crime.
Conti, a former state House and Senate member from Bucks County appointed to the LCB by former Gov. Rendell, reportedly got Phillies tickets and more from vendors; and lobbied Philly restaurateur Stephen Starr for a job for a family member, mentioning the possibility of putting a state wine boutique in one of Starr's properties.
The report says Conti's daughter was hired soon thereafter as an executive assistant for Starr Restaurants Catering Group.
Stapleton, a former LCB chairman appointed by former Gov. Ridge, allegedly got 60 bottles of spirits worth $1,700 (Isn't this kinda like taking from yourself? You'd think he'd have access to a warehouse or two).
This came from a vendor for a function that Stapleton organized at the Hotel Hershey, "an elegant destination resort." Another vendor threw in a celebrity chef.
Short, according to the report, got golf with a pro at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, — "home to one of the world's finest golf courses," as its website says — and a vendor tossed in two employees to serve as caddies. I'm sure they felt valued.
The report says some of this stuff was referenced in emails to and from Conti and Stapleton.
This suggests: (a) they didn't think they were doing anything wrong, (b) they were drunk at the time, or (c) they've got the combined smarts of a sloe gin fizz.
The Inky also reported about an earlier inspector general's report. It said the LCB's seven administrative-law judges routinely ditched work during three months in 2010 to go swimming, shopping, home or, in one case, on vacation in the Bahamas without putting in for vacation time.
The upshot of all this?
Hey, it's Pennsylvania, the land of low expectations. It's behavior we've come to rely on.
And earlier ,when I said I was shocked? That was sarcasm. n
For recent columns, go to philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.