Taste for Rare Bourbon Has State Officials in Hot Water

Oregon alcohol officials allegedly pulled strings to obtain rare bottles of Pappy Van Winkle
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 12, 2023 7:55 AM CST
Taste for Rare Bourbon Has State Officials in Hot Water
Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek wants people fired over the booze controversy.   (AP Photo/Claire Rush, File)

A thirst for rare bottles of bourbon appears set to cost the executive director and other top officials of Oregon's liquor and marijuana regulating agency their jobs. An internal investigation by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, obtained by the AP via a public records request, concluded that Executive Director Steve Marks and five other agency officials diverted sought-after bourbons, including Pappy Van Winkle’s 23-year-old whiskey, for their 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 a chance to buy the pricey booze, the investigation said. That violates Oregon statutes, including one that prohibits public officials from using confidential information for personal gain, the commission's investigation said. The Oregonian/OregonLive first reported the internal investigation.

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek has asked the agency's board of commissioners to remove Marks and the other implicated officials, alleging they “abused their position for personal gain.” In his responses to questions from the investigator, Marks denied that he had violated Oregon ethics laws and state policy. However, he acknowledged that he had received preferential treatment “to some extent” in obtaining the whiskey as a commission employee. The governor also has asked Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to conduct an independent civil investigation and to recommend stronger protocols for ensuring ethics laws are followed.

(More Oregon stories.)

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