The scandal that led to the resignation of the executive director of Utah's liquor agency is just another example of why the state should not be involved in the liquor business.
Dennis Kellen quit his post after allegations that the department had steered more than $270,000 of state business contracts to his son, Brian Kellen, who owns a Woods Cross packaging company, Flexpak Inc.. Those allegations followed legislators' anger with Kellen following an audit of a bankrupt Eden packaging company. The liquor agency was accused of costing Utah roughly $300,000 due to bad management.
Sam Granato, a former member of the Utah liquor commission, claims that Kellen lied to him four years ago when Granato asked him if he did business with his son's company. Kellen, according to Granato, said no. According to information released by acting liquor commission head Francine Giani, there was lots of business done with Flexpak Inc.
There should be a thorough investigation of Kellen's tenure and if crimes are uncovered, we hope that charges will be filed.
Whatever the investigation uncovers, we repeat that the end result needs to be the transfer of liquor business in the state from the public sector to the private sector. The dominant political party in Utah -- which professes through its leaders to be champions of free enterprise -- reveals itself to be hypocritical by its burdensome, heavy-handed overseeing of liquor sales. Religious beliefs are what dictate this practice in Utah, not common sense.
The practice of theologically based decisions in the public sector leads to fiascoes similar to what has been uncovered in Kellen's tenure. We need prominent legislators, or the governor, to have the courage to call for an end to the current state policy on liquor sales.