An interview Tuesday with DABC director Sal Petilos and Kristin Cox, director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, gave a deeper look into the recently concluded review of the troubled Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
So far, despite a GRAMA records request by Salt Lake magazine, very little has been made public of the the far-reaching probe into the agency’s operations and work culture. Only a one-page summary of what Cox called a “deep dive” into the DABC’s operations—including interviewing more than 120 DABC employees has surfaced.
Here are some highlights of the interview:
— Gov. Gary Herbert will propose in his state budget a restoration of the $500,000 cut from the DABC last year. He will also ask for additional funding for the agency. “There will be more money in the budget for compensation,” says Cox, and additional money for operations and “more soldiers on the ground, more man-slash-woman power.” Sen. Jerry Stevenson, who will be the Legislature’s point man on alcohol proposals, told Salt Lake magazine that he also supports restoring the cuts and increasing DABC’s budget.
Those expenditures, of course, will have to be approved by the Legislature.
— The controversial policy of putting one manager over two or more liquor stores will NOT be changed, Cox says: “We stand by the position to consolidate positions—but not unless you also change some of the business practices to streamline management. If you free up what managers do, consolidation is sustainable.”
— Managers will have more input into the DABC’s centralized ordering system that many customers say has reduced the selection to mainly “value-priced” wines and liquors. How much say remains to be seen because store managers will have to convince Petilos of the benefit of their change requests.
— Though many DABC employees and critics say real change is impossible as long as Petilos and his regional managers remain in place, Cox says Petilos, at least, will stay on the job. “I have confidence in Sal’s commitment to employees. I don’t question it,” she says. “Sal is sincere.”
— But the open assistant director position, critical to the DABC’s operations, is about to be filled—and Cox says that person should win the trust of the employees. Former Assistant Director Tom Zdunich resigned at the height of the DABC controversy last summer. “Tom’s gone,” Cox says. “Let’s be honest—I don’t know if I agree with everyone—but he was a point of contention. You are going to have someone new in there with a significant impact on operations and culture.”
— The replacement for Zdunich is being vetted by a panel that includes a representative from the restaurant industry (Gastronomy), a DABC Commissioner, a DABC store manager, a member of Cox’s team and Petilos.
Cox says the changes will take time to play out: “You can come back to us in three months and we can show you some outcomes.”