Texas liquor agency rebuked ... again

The hits just keep on coming for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The TABC, which has been rocked by a series of scandals, has now been chastised by a state court for its regulatory overreach. The Texas Tribune reports:

"Leaders at the Texas Capitol love to bash what they call out-of-control bureaucrats at city halls and in Washington, D.C., but a recent case pitting the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission against Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods looks like state regulatory overreach on steroids.

After an investigation of the state’s largest liquor retailer, the TABC sought to yank permits for all 164 of the company’s stores — which would effectively shut it down — or hit Spec's with fines of up to $713 million, according to court documents filed last week. The agency also put the company’s expansion plans on ice by freezing Spec’s new permit applications during the three-year probe, records show.

What did Spec’s, a family-run company based in Houston, do to deserve the business equivalent of the death penalty? That’s what a couple of Texas administrative law judges wondered last week. 

They poured out the TABC like stale beer in a blunt 151-page ruling. The judges said TABC failed to prove dozens of allegations, rebuked agency lawyers for failing to disclose evidence to their own witness (and the court) and called out the agency for 'stacking' charges, a tactic commonly used to pressure defendants into a settlement..."

More here: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/06/30/texas-liquor-agency-rebuked-case-regulatory-overkill/

The Tribune also reports that three high-level officials at TABC have departed in recent months in what appears to be an effort by Texas government officials to clean house at the embattled agency:

"Another high-ranking official is leaving the embattled Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which has been rocked by a series of controversies over extravagant spending and regulatory overreach in recent months. 

General Counsel Emily Helm, the agency’s top lawyer, resigned effective Monday, according to the head of the commission that oversees the TABC.

'I have accepted the resignation of General Counsel Emily Helm,' said commission Chairman Kevin Lilly, the Houston businessman tapped by Gov. Greg Abbott to reform the agency. 'I thank her for her many years of service to this agency and the people of Texas, and wish her well on her future endeavors.'

Helm is the third high-ranking official to leave the TABC since The Texas Tribune began investigating the agency over lavish trips to out-of-state resorts, questionable use of peace officer status by top agency honchos, failures to accurately maintain records of state-owned vehicles and heavy-handed regulatory tactics against alcohol permit holders..."

More here: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/07/03/third-high-level-departure-embattled-tabc/

DrinksReform.org has previously covered the Tribune's excellent reporting on TABC in a series of posts: http://www.drinksreform.org/blog-1/2017/4/21/top-texas-liquor-regulator-got-hazardous-duty-pay-on-hawaii-junket

UPDATE: The Tribune is now reporting that TABC's acting director has also just resigned: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/07/10/interim-director-tabc-abruptly-quits/