PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek is calling for an independent investigation by the state’s attorney general into allegations of abuse of power at the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.
An internal investigation at the state agency found that Executive Director Steve Marks and five other agency leaders diverted bottles of high-end bourbons, such as Pappy Van Winkle’s 23, for personal use.
The officials were paying for the whiskey, which can cost thousands of dollars a bottle, but they had used their knowledge and connections at the commission to obtain them, and consequently deprived members of the public of the spendy booze, the investigation said. And that violated Oregon statutes, including one that prohibits public officials from using confidential information for personal gain, the commission’s investigation said.
Gov. Kotek had demanded Executive Director Steve Marks’ resignation before she learned of the abuse. Now, she is hoping to clean house at OLCC.
“This behavior is wholly unacceptable. I will not tolerate wrongful violations of our government ethics laws,” Kotek said in her letter to the Board of Commissioners.
Marks denies he violated ethics laws but acknowledged getting preferential treatment to some extent. He and others questioned in the investigation say they never resold the whiskey, which can go for thousands of dollars.
Amanda Dalton, CEO of NW Grocery Association, said she hopes there will be a rest to agency leadership and the agency commission.
“This was a widespread problem that needs to be addressed immediately. I am confident that Gov. Kotek and her team are going to do that,” she said.