Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"If the LCB were to find a cure for cancer..."

Either Governor Rendell or his press secretary, Chuck Ardo, apparently thinks people like me -- and maybe you -- are just anti-PLCB cranks. Check this out from that Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece on the courtesy contract controversy:

Such criticism was to be expected from longtime critics of the PLCB, countered Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Mr. Rendell. "The LCB decided their retail staff needed some training to ensure courteous service," he said. "If the LCB were to find a cure for cancer they would find a reason to criticize it."
"Cure for cancer"? In light of what's been going on lately, it seems more likely that someone at the LCB's brother-in-law would be peddling Laetrile, Chuck, and yeah, I'd criticize that.

In fact, even your own boss criticized the courtesy contract least, until someone got to him and, er, pointed out the facts. Check it out, and how Chuck spun it right around (emphasis added, cuz I wouldn't want you to miss the important stuff...):

Mr. Rendell, when asked about the customer service training contract at a news conference, said it was the first he'd heard of it -- and of the relationship between the consulting firm's president and an PLCB manager. "If it's true, it's something that should be corrected," Mr. Rendell said.

But the governor made that comment before he had all the information about the contract, Mr. Ardo said. "He is not calling for the contract to be rebid," said Mr. Ardo. "He answered instinctively [because] the way the question was asked it seemed there might be a problem, but once the details unfolded it was clear there is no problem."

Clear? You bet! It's clear to me that Rendell's "instinctive" response to hearing about a fairly large state contract being let to the husband of a high-ranking agency manager was that it was "something that should be corrected." How much more information do you need? That it's "in compliance" with the state's Adverse Interest Act, according to LCB spokesman Nick Hays? Yeah, that's a tough standard. Check out the Post-Gazette's careful, damning parsing of that:
Hays said the contract was "in compliance" with the state's Adverse Interest Act, which among other things prohibits state employees from influencing contracts in which they have an interest.
The act also prohibits state employees from having an "adverse interest" in any contract with the state agency that employs them. The act defines that interest as being "a stockholder, partner, member, agent, representative or employee" of a company seeking such a contract. Hays said Susanne Hobart does not do any work for her husband's firm.

Let me get this straight. Is this coming from the same state agency that recently required an investor in Philadelphia brewpub Earth Bread + Brewery to sell his investment to his wife (because he was also an investor in another small Pennsylvania brewery, which might influence the managers of EB+B to buy beer from that brewery), and then further required his wife to sign an affadavit that her husband would never profit from her investment? Really?

Did they require Mrs. Hobart to sign a similar affadavit? They're married. The state's "Adverse Interest Act" doesn't cover that? I guess that's one of the "details" Chuck was talking about.

The Gov should follow his instincts more often.


Kevin said...

"Find a cure for cancer!" Let's work on smiling. When they find the cure for cancer and require us to buy it at a much more expensive price than other states and only buy the case(when we do buy it) then I will criticize them for finding a cure for cancer. This is extremely maddening.


Anonymous said...

This is deeply disturbing and it shows just how corrupt the state system can be.

The cancer comment actually offended me, and I am NOT an easily offended guy...

Lew Bryson said...

I agree, winedude; I thought the cancer comment was pretty insensitive.

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous... Guess its now fun to joke about cancer. And honestly, i would think most people who walk into the liquor store need help being sold liqour/wine/beer. we have tax money paying for smiles and sales tactics at a store where people more often than not already know what they want and where to find it. I can't remember the last time i went into a state store and said "oh no thanks, just browsing today"

Lew Bryson said...

Actually, CR, I've had to ask about where wines are pretty often, if only because their signage sucks so hard. And sometimes they know, and sometimes they don't.
But I have gotten into the habit of browsing, of finding things without asking...because it's less frustrating.