Key LCB official stepping down before report

Posted: March 06, 2014

HARRISBURG A high-level official at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is leaving his $113,937 post days before the release of a long-awaited report into alleged ethics violations at the agency.

Marketing director Jim Short notified the agency of his retirement this week, the agency confirmed.

Short was one of three LCB officials named in a 2012 confidential report by the state Inspector General's Office that contended they had improperly accepted gifts and favors from vendors.

The others were Joe Conti, the board CEO and a former state senator from Doylestown, and Chairman Patrick J. "P.J." Stapleton III of Indiana County. Both have since left the agency.

The March 2012 report by former Inspector General Kenya Mann Faulkner spurred a review by the state Ethics Commission, which is poised to release its findings early next week, according to two sources familiar with the matter who asked to remain anonymous.

Faulkner's report concluded that Stapleton accepted several gifts from an LCB vendor, including golf outings and about $1,700 worth of alcohol for an annual event he helps organize at the Hotel Hershey.

It said Conti frequently attended sporting events, including Phillies games, as a guest of LCB vendors. And it claimed Short accepted golf putters and other gifts from vendors.

Short, Conti and Stapleton could not be reached for comment. Robert Caruso, who heads the Ethics Commission, declined to comment.

Faulkner's report also noted that Pennsylvania's Ethics Act bars officials from using their positions to benefit themselves or their families - and that state liquor law makes it a felony for LCB employees and their relatives to receive gifts from vendors.

The Inspector General's Office investigates fraud and wrongdoing in state government but can only refer its findings to law enforcement or other agencies for further action. Penalties could include firing or prosecution.

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