OLCC chairman resigns amid bourbon hoarding controversy
PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Days after the resignation of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission president, the chairman of the OLCC, Paul Rosenbaum, has stepped down as well.
The resignations come amid a criminal investigation into the OLCC’s ethical violations. The executive director of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, Steve Marks, and five other agency officials were found diverting sought-after bourbons, including Pappy Van Winkle’s 23-year-old whiskey, for their own use, according to an internal investigation obtained by FOX 12.
OLCC documents show that although the officials were paying for the whiskey, costing hundreds of dollars a bottle, they were able to obtain them thanks to their connections and inside knowledge at the commission. As a result, the public was denied access to the pricy liquor.
Similar to the resignation of OLCC president, Steve Marks, who resigned at Gov. Tina Kotek’s request, Rosenbaum also cited the governor.
“As the Governor requested this morning, I submitted my resignation as chair of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission today,” Rosenbaum wrote in a statement Thursday. “As I explained yesterday at a public Commission meeting, I was informed about the bourbon diversion investigation and its disciplinary conclusions on September 8, 2022.”
Speaking on the controversy, Gov. Kotek said leaders within the agency, including the director, abused their position for personal gain.
“This behavior is wholly unacceptable. I will not tolerate wrongful violations of our government ethics laws,” Kotek said in a statement. “I urge the commission to install new leadership and remove the managers and executive leadership who have taken advantage of their access and authority to benefit themselves.”
In Thursday’s statement from Rosenbaum, the now-former chairman denied being a part of an investigation into ethical violations:
“Neither I nor any of my fellow commissioners were part of the investigation. In addition, neither I nor any of my fellow commissioners were asked to endorse or otherwise evaluate the investigation. I have been a volunteer commission member for six years. The citizen commission’s only role is to set policy, leaving day-to-day operations to agency staff. The policies we enact include the expectation of ethical behavior.
I am proud of the hard work of my fellow commission members and of the thousands of good and honest employees at OLCC.”
The board of commissioners is appointed by the governor and in turn selects the executive director, according to a commission spokesperson. No successors have been announced at this time.
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