Former Pa. Liquor Control Board members ordered to pay thousands for gifts

Posted: March 19, 2014

GOLF OUTINGS, cocktails and dinners are a certainty when business and government mingle - and for the officials, at least, a certain amount of paperwork is expected afterward.

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission ordered three former Liquor Control Board officials to repay thousands of dollars in gifts they received from vendors who did business with the PLCB, including outings at Aronimink Golf Club, dinners at restaurants all over the state and personal gifts such as engraved bottles of Scotch.

According to the Ethics Commission, Joe Conti, the former CEO of the PLCB, must repay $2,338.51, while former PLCB board member Patrick Stapleton was ordered to pay $7,258.54 and James Short, who retired as the PLCB's director of marketing earlier this month, was ordered to pay $13,586.92. All three men, according to the ethics commission, failed to properly report the gifts.

Conti could not be reached for comment but told the Associated Press that he thought the investigation was thorough and fair. Stapleton, when reached at the Center City law firm where he works, said "significant facts" were left out of the investigation but also said it was time to "move on by paying fines and refiling disclosures."

"I continue to believe I acted appropriately at all times and recognize that certain interactions with the industry could have been better handled," he said.

Stapleton, who left the agency in 2012, said the Ethics Commission's report confirmed that these gifts from vendors did not result in favorable treatment.

Short could not be reached for comment. All three men must pay the state within 30 days, the Ethics Commission said.

PLCB Chairman Joseph E. Brion, in a statement, said the agency was reviewing documents to make sure similar violations don't happen again.

"As an agency, we work closely with many vendors to ensure that consumers have access to a wide variety of products," Brion said. "It's extremely important that the integrity of the process is not compromised."

On Twitter: @JasonNark

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