Liquor agency scandal, firings renews privatization calls

By Taxpayers Association of Oregon

Top managers (possibly a total of 6) at the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission profited personally from their positions, and Gov. Tina Kotek wants them gone. Kotek first demanded the resignation of OLCC Director Steven Marks, who stepped down from the job he had held since 2013. Then she followed up with a letter asking the commission in charge of regulating alcohol and marijuana sales to oust other managers guilty of a pattern of abusing their positions for personal gain, according to the Oregon Capital Insider. The scandal stems partly from an Oregonian investigation alleging that Marks and other managers ordered bottles of expensive liquor and reserved them for personal use, then held a public lottery for five bottles of the rare bourbon, which in December drew more than 20,000 entrants.

OPB states, “Nikki Leslie, who is in charge of distributing the liquor, told investigators the practice had been going on for as long as she was in her role, dating back eight years. Leslie said she was often asked to divert the liquor to a Milwaukie store close to the agency’s office. The employees were then told the date the product would arrive, so they could contact the business to purchase the set-aside bottles.”

The Oregonian states that lawmakers may be involved in the scandal, “In the course of the investigation, one liquor agency manager disclosed that he also fulfilled hundreds of requests for distilled spirits over the past four years, including those from unnamed lawmakers. The agency on Thursday failed to identify the Oregon lawmakers who asked officials to set aside the bottles.It’s not clear who Marks told about the investigation’s findings. Brown’s office was informed of the allegations sometime last year, but it does not appear she was kept apprised of the investigation, which was completed in August.Marks did not respond to emails seeking comment on Wednesday and Thursday. Questions about whether Marks, who is paid $222,804 a year, asked for or will receive a severance package also went unanswered.”

Unlike other states, Oregon’s OLCC has absolute control of what liquor may be sold in the State.  They act as a central clearing house authority.  It doesn’t matter what your customers favorite whiskey is, if OLCC doesn’t want it you can’t sell it.   This makes the idea that the OLCC profiting from controlling the market all the more terrible,

The Taxpayers Association of Oregon co-founder Don McIntire since the 1990s was a strong proponent of privatizing the OLCC so store owners and the public could have the freedom to choose what they want.   In years past, there have been efforts to put similar measures on the ballot dealing the other issue of allowing ordinary grocery stores to sell liquor and not just single stores.

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