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Rolly: The DABC just ain't what it used to be
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

My column Monday about a special-order Spanish wine sold to the state for $1 a bottle, and reserved for Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control employees for $2.24 a bottle, prompted a call from a liquor store employee who claimed I was given inaccurate information.

His complaint?

"We haven't gotten any special deals or free stuff since the Kellen thing hit."

The "Kellen thing" was the forced resignation last year of DABC Director Dennis Kellen after it was discovered the department was bypassing procurement laws by purchasing warehouse supplies from Kellen's son in small enough bundles to be under the cost threshold required for competitive bidding.

That followed damning state audits that legislators said showed an atmosphere of incompetence and possible corruption at the DABC.

When I told interim DABC Director Francine Giani about the employee's claim that workers used to get deals, such as discounted prices on liquor if a container was marred, or on surplus specialty items, she didn't act surprised.

"It's possible," she said, adding she has learned since taking over the department that "things were a little too lax under the past administrations."

Giani, the State Department of Commerce director who was brought in to stabilize the DABC after Kellen left, said she has learned that samples given to the DABC by vendors promoting a product were sometimes offered for sale at as little as $1. But she has put a stop to that practice.

"I'm cleaning a house that hasn't been cleaned in 35 years," she said.

Meanwhile, the DABC's Tom Zdunich, responding to a reader's email about my column, said when the department found out the specialty Spanish wine was being held for DABC employees, "the manager of the store was told to immediately release the product for sale to whomever wanted to purchase it."

Need to talk more often • Gov. Gary Herbert has gone against the recommendation of a state agriculture sustainability task force that recommended additional appropriations for the LeRay McCallister Fund, which pays farmers to keep farmland for agriculture instead of selling it for development. The fund has received more than a five-to-one match from the federal government.

Herbert's spokesperson, Ally Isom, said the decision was due to a tight budget and many competing demands.

But guess who co-chairs the task force that made the recommendation that Herbert rejected? None other than Lt. Greg Bell, Herbert's trusted second-in-command.

An inspiring patriotic program • First-graders at Timpanogos Academy, a charter school in Lindon, performed a program for parents and grandparents Wednesday that featured patriotic songs, recitations from the students and a slide show featuring various wars and courage demonstrated during 9/11.

One student, who suffers from a form of mutism, had never spoken in public until just recently when he began limited dialogues with his teacher.So parents held their breaths when he stood before the crowd during the celebration.

"We are a diverse people and we are proud to live in a land that unites people together and to call ourselves Americans," he said proudly. "May God bless America."

Then he sat down, leaving others in the room speechless for a few seconds.

prolly@sltrib.com

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