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Utah liquor regulators to select new director

Published June 25, 2012 6:14 pm

Alcohol • Troubled agency has been under interim boss since audit, resignation.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Liquor-control commissioners are expected on Tuesday to nominate a new director to oversee the embattled Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which has been without a permanent boss since the last one was forced to resign.

Five men were under consideration, including Michael Deamer, a Salt Lake City attorney; Rick Huggins, an entrepreneur from Utah County; Saul Petilos, deputy director of the Utah Department of Administrative Services; and Tom Zdunich, deputy director and director of purchasing with the DABC. A fifth did not give state officials permission to release his name.

Last August, Commerce Department Director Francine Giani was appointed interim liquor boss after the governor sought Dennis Kellen's ouster amid allegations that the alcohol department had done business with a company operated by his son in violation of regulations.

Legislative auditors said Kellen, 68, should be investigated by the state and face possible criminal charges for his role in $370,000 worth of transactions. The Attorney General's Office is looking into the matter.

Kellen worked at the agency that oversees the state-run liquor monopoly for more than 30 years.

The liquor board appointed Kellen director in 2007 without interviewing any other candidates for the position.

Liquor Commissioner Jeffrey Wright said 10 or so people were considered during the first round of interviews for a new director, and four candidates were considered during the final round.

"It was a process," said Wright of the selection. "We came out with a good consensus candidate."

Compensation for the position is about $130,000 annually.

State law requires the approval of Gov. Gary Herbert before an appointment is made.

The board has been particularly discrete in selecting a new director. When an agenda was released last week for Tuesday's meeting it did not state that commissioners would be voting on a director. On Monday, the new action item was included.

dawn@sltrib.com

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