Ex-Pa. liquor officials cited in ethics probe
HARRISBURG – Three former top officials at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board must pay the state thousands of dollars for various gifts, such as dinners and golf tickets, they accepted from vendors but did not report on disclosure forms, the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission said Monday.
The Liquor Control Board’s former chairman Patrick Stapleton III, chief executive Joe Conti and marketing director James Short violated the ethics law when they did not report accepting the gifs, the ethics commission said.
Under a consent agreement issued by the ethics commission, Short must pay the state $13,586, Stapleton $7,258 and Conti $2,388. Stapleton left the agency in 2012, Conti left last year and Short left earlier this month.
Conti, 59, a former state senator from Bucks County who set up his own consulting and lobbying business, called the ethics investigation “thorough and fair,” and said he intended to abide by it. He served as the liquor agency’s CEO from Dec 2006 to July 2013.
He said half of his fine stemmed from a golf outing for which he tried to pay his fair share.
“I tried to do the best I could in these matters, and this was an oversight,” Conti said.
Stapleton, 58, a lawyer who served as a Liquor Control Board member for 15 years after he was an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, said he did not feel that he did anything wrong. The agreement leaves out significant facts, he said, but he declined to be specific and said he would rather not go into it.
“I continue to believe I acted appropriately at all times and recognize that certain interactions with the industry could have been better handled,” Stapleton said.
Both men said they never gave favorable treatment to gift-giving vendors that were seeking business from the Liquor Control Board.
Short did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment.