Editorials

New TABC leadership was sorely needed

An agency cartoon references Texas liquor regulators’ trip to a 2015 national conference at a cost of more than $7,000.
An agency cartoon references Texas liquor regulators’ trip to a 2015 national conference at a cost of more than $7,000.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has new leadership. It needed it.

Six top officials have resigned since an investigation by the online Texas Tribune revealed expensive out-of-state resort vacations and allegations of poor record-keeping, abuse of law enforcement authority and heavy-handed enforcement.

The TABC has a dual role in Texas government. Its purpose is to protect public health and safety through regulating liquor sales, and officials are expected to model the same thrift and fiscal responsibility as any public agency.

But the liquor industry produces $1.1 billion a year in tax money, so the TABC also is quietly expected to regulate the industry in a way that supports healthy business expansion and a continued revenue source.

When the Tribune reported that agency officials spent tens of thousands of dollars on conferences as far away as Hawaii, California and Florida, some indirectly funded by the liquor industry, the Texas House responded by banning out-of-state travel and prohibiting the agency from traveling on industry money.

Agency employees working on state time created a cartoon for the California conference showing TABC officials riding in a plane, drinking Lone Star and shouting “woo hoo!”

That did not inspire confidence in either TABC’s sense of fiscal responsibility or its regulatory oversight.

Bryan attorney Bentley Nettles, a decorated U.S. Army brigadier general and recipient of the Purple Heart, has been named finalist to become TABC’s new executive director.

At a time when news outlets are under widespread criticism, the publicly funded Texas Tribune deserves credit for hard work that will make the TABC and Texas better.

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