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In a surprise move, Gov. Gary Herbert has nominated Francine Giani to the state’s liquor-control board, weeks after she ended a tenure as the agency’s interim director that was marked by sharp clashes with alcohol panel members.
On Tuesday, Herbert also nominated community volunteer Olivia Vela Agraz to the board and made official his choice of 16-year veteran state employee Salvador Petilos to fill the position Giani is vacating.
State liquor board appointees
Director » Salvador D. Petilos
Board member » Francine Giani, director Utah Commerce Department
Board member » Olivia Vela Agraz, a longtime community volunteer
Confirmations are set for Sept. 19, though a Senate hearing to review the appointments has yet to be scheduled.
"You mean I could have said no?" Giani said when asked about her willingness to help oversee the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, with its annual budget of $300 million.
Last year, Herbert chose Giani to "clean up the mess" at the department, in Giani’s words, after its former director Dennis Kellen resigned amid allegations the agency had done business with Kellen’s son.
During one-year stint as liquor interim director, Giani, 52, also remained head of the Commerce Department, a position she currently holds.
Almost immediately, Giani questioned whether the part-time citizens’ board that meets once monthly could effectively manage the sprawling agency that maintains a virtual monopoly on state liquor sales.
One telling clash between Giani and the board came to light last September, when commissioners summoned her into a closed meeting to complain about her management style. The exchange was inadvertently broadcast live outside the meeting room, however, after someone forgot to turn off the intercom.
In the meeting, commission chairman Richard Sperry told Giani that by law, she was to report to the board, not to the governor. Giani retorted that she would not be intimated by threats for her job, saying, "With all due respect, Dr. Sperry, I’ve gotten into a lot bigger fights with people a lot bigger than you."
Sperry has since said his issues with Giani have been resolved.
Legislators decided earlier this year to retain the part-time liquor board, but increased the number of commissioners from five to seven members as of July 1.
Panel nominee Agraz, 64, Holladay, is a longtime community volunteer, most recently serving on boards for the University of Utah’s Health Sciences Center and Red Butte Garden and Arboretum. She has also volunteered for the American Red Cross in Utah, Junior League of Salt Lake City and Teen Pregnancy Utah.
Director appointee Petilos, 51, has no retail sales experience — a fact criticized in a recent state-ordered consultant’s report — but he does have a background in law and as an analyst dealing with employee performance and state policy.
Since 2008, Petilos has been deputy director of the Department of Administrative Services. His duties included providing oversight on state policy and ensuring compliance with laws, regulations rules, standards and guidelines. He joined the department in 2000, serving as an auditor and a hearing officer for employee grievances.
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