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Paul Rolly: Sen. Valentine flip flops on oversight of alcohol agency

Published March 27, 2013 7:50 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, inserted an amendment into the fourth substitute of HB228, the comprehensive liquor reform bill that would give the state auditor the authority to conduct financial audits of the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

Seems benign enough, right?

But that would be the same John Valentine who last year sponsored a bill that would have taken the authority for overseeing financial audits of the DABC away from the state auditor and would have given it instead to an independent CPA who would have answered to a commission, not to the auditor.

So what changed?

Last year, the auditor was Auston Johnson, who had rankled a number of legislators for conducting some stinging audits that, shall we say, hit a little close to home.

One audit castigated the Utah Center for Applied Technology for inappropriately using state resources to build a float for the Utah County Republican Party to display in the Provo Independence Day Parade.

Legislators showed their displeasure in various ways. When they voted to give pay raises to the statewide elected office holders like auditor, treasurer, and attorney general, Johnson got less of a raise than the others.

But Johnson is no longer there.

Last year, he was defeated in the Republican primary by John Dougall, a member of the House of Representatives who enjoyed generous campaign contributions from Republican legislative PACs.

Valentine said the amendment to restore the auditor's authority was pushed by House members during a conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate. He said that last year, it was felt the auditor was not well-equipped to do financial audits of the DABC because the auditor usually conducts audits of government agencies, and the DABC is run more like a business. Its operations are funded by revenue from liquor sales, not tax money.

He said Dougall this year made a good case for his ability to do the audits.

But then again, perhaps it's not what you know, but who you know.

Speaking of the DABC • Bar licenses are so scare that 16 applicants vied for two liquor permits during the meeting of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission this week. Some applicants have been waiting for more than two years to get a so-called club permit allowing bartenders to mix drinks in public view — rather than behind a Zion curtain or in a back room — and for customers to get an alcoholic beverage without also ordering food.

When Commissioner Richard Sperry advocated for one bar to get one of those scarce permits, he said he was a little sheepish about his wife finding out the name of the Salt Lake City establishment that got a permit, based largely on his spirited recommendation. The place: Sin City.

Gun logic • When physician Ellen Brady wrote emails to legislators urging them to sustain Gov. Gary Herbert's veto of the bill that would allow gun owners to carry their concealed weapons without a permit, one of her arguments was that a permit requires safety training, which is a good thing.

This is the response she got from Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, the most rabid gun advocate in the Legislature:

"Thank you for your anti-liberty, anti-constitution comments. Perhaps we need to push for training upon physicians since medical errors cause more than 195,000 deaths each year in America."

Push for training upon physicians? Isn't that called medical school, plus the four to eight years in residency training, depending on your specialty?

prolly@sltrib.com