Image by jekert gwapo via FlickrABC officials repay pricey holiday dinner
Over $300 per person!
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The chairman and top officers of North Carolina's largest local enforcer of alcohol laws have reimbursed an international liquor company $9,000 for a holiday dinner they were treated to last month.
The Charlotte Observer reports Wednesday the payback comes as the state Alcohol Law Enforcement Division investigates the dinner at Del Frisco's steakhouse. The state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission can remove local board members and employees who violate state laws on accepting gifts.
Mecklenburg County ABC board chairman Parks Helms said the dinner was a mistake. He said the dinner for 28 people may have appeared improper, and the board will revise its policies.
London-based Diageo had paid the bill. Its brands include Smirnoff vodka and Johnnie Walker Scotch.
Should have known better right?YOU'D THINK SO, Mr. Helms is a partner in one of North Carolina's most powerful law firms and deeply entrenched in the political system.
Parks Helms. OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
The chairman of the Mecklenburg County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and top staff members have paid back $9,000 to an international liquor company that treated the local officials to a holiday dinner last month.
The payback comes as state officials are conducting an investigation into the dinner at Del Frisco's steakhouse in Charlotte, where a hostess said the cheapest steak is $32.95. State ABC Commission officials said last month that they have the authority to remove local board members and employees who violate state laws against accepting gifts.
“We shouldn't have done it,” ABC board Chair Parks Helms told the Observer Monday. “We made a mistake.”
He said that the dinner for 28 people may have appeared improper and that the board will revise its policies to ensure that guidelines about accepting gifts are clear in the future. The Observer's news partner, WCNC-TV, first broke the story in November.
Helms, who attended the dinner with his wife Eleanor, is paying $1,000. He was the only board member in attendance. Among the staff, CEO Calvin McDougal, who was accompanied by his wife Portia at the dinner, is paying $4,000. Both men are covering the tab for staffers for whom repayment would be a financial hardship. Other staff must pay $330 each.
Helms said a steady stream of government scandal stories had caused an overreaction to news of the dinner.
“In the business world, you have meetings and dinners with the people whose products you sell,” he said. The Mecklenburg board's statement also said that, in the past, the state commission exempted unsolicited meals from state laws prohibiting distillers from giving gifts to retailers.