Legislators blame Alcoholic Beverage Commission troubles on board members

Audits finding problems at the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission, some dating back to 2007, have led to legislators urging that members of the ABC board be replaced, reports the Times-Free Press.

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, both expressed their belief commissioners should be ousted, and ousted soon, because of failures noted in audits in 2007, 2009 and last month.

“When you look at an audit and the first finding starts with the line ‘as noted in the 2007 financial and compliance audit,’ there’s a problem,” Bell said. ” Who [these failures] fall back on are the commissioners. That is where the buck stops. They’re the ones, in my opinion, who have not been giving proper attention and oversight to the executive director.”

“That is where the buck stops. They’re the ones, in my opinion, who have not been giving proper attention and oversight to the executive director.”

…Last month’s audit found continued failure in key areas stretching back more than a decade. The commission failed to put proper policies in place to oversee licenses, did not properly keep track or handle confiscated evidence and did not have proper conflict-of-interest policies in place, among other failures noted in the audit. (Note: The full audit report is HERE.)

The (Joint Government Operations) subcommittee voted to recommend the commission continue for at least four more years but asked auditors to follow up within a year to examine what improvements have been made.

However, if Bell has his way, the commission will have new leadership. He encouraged lawmakers and commission directors to write a letter asking Gov. Bill Haslam to replace the current commissioners.

“There will be a letter under my signature going to the governor,” Ragan assured Bell.

The commission consists of Chairwoman Mary McDaniel, John Jones and Bryan Kaegi. They did not attend the hearing Wednesday morning.

McDaniel and Kaegi were appointed to the commission on the same day in 2011 while Jones replaced his father on the commission in 1992. They each have overseen the commission during a stretch when audits found key failures throughout it.

“These were not just crossing T’s and dotting I’s,” Bell said. “These have to do with integrity of the system.”

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