Texas Booze Cops Caught Partying With Taxpayer Money

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KIM VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
  • Kim via Flickr creative commons
If you know anyone who helps run a bar or brewery or occasionally throws events with adult beverages in Texas, you've probably heard some grousing over the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which regulates all things booze in the state.

That's because, to critics of how the agency currently operates, TABC's rules and enforcement actions often strain the brain. Some of that might be because of Texas' so-called "three tier" system for regulating alcohol, which mandates absolute separation of manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers — a system that grew out of 1930s-era laws aimed at keeping organized crime out of the industry. Critics argue it's a system that today only fosters monopolies and smothers competition.

But the folks at the TABC are also known for being sticklers — even if they don't always follow their own rules. They've got a history of controversial raids, they might even swoop into town and ruin everybody's "Sunday funday," and sometimes it seems like they're just making shit up as they go along.

On Friday came yet another controversy sure to irk anyone who is ever on the receiving end the TABC. According to documents recently obtained by the Texas Tribune, the agency's head honchos have a penchant for taxpayer-funded partying.

Specifically, the Trib unearthed records showing the agency has spent at least $85,000 on out-of-state travel by top TABC officials since 2011. That included at least $8,000 spent on a summer 2015 trip to San Diego to attend the annual gathering of the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, a liquor industry group that throws fancy, boozy bashes to bring the liquor lobby and government regulators together. Included in the docs obtained by the Trib was a remarkably strange Photoshop job showing TABC director Sherry Cook, agency licensing chief Amy Harrison, an agency analyst and a contractor riding in a plane downing bottles of Lone Star. They were apparently very excited for the conference:
SCREENSHOT, TEXAS TRIBUNE
  • screenshot, Texas Tribune
The Trib reports that top brass at the agency even brought their spouses along for the group's 2013 conference at a resort in Waikiki.

This is just the latest scandal to hit the TABC in recent months. In December of 2016, a former agency supervisor filed a complaint against top agency officials saying they didn't even abide by their own rules to get the proper alcohol permit for a party they threw at a liquor industry gathering in Austin last year.

TABC investigated itself on that one — and then determined it had done nothing wrong.


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