New appointments to DABC expected to be confirmed

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 21 2011 11:13 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate panel recommended confirmation Wednesday of a new executive director and commissioner for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control — and suggested big changes may be coming to the agency that controls the sale of liquor in Utah.

The full Senate is expected to vote later today to confirm Gov. Gary Herbert's appointments of Francine Giani to head the department and Constance White to fill the remaining vacancy on the five-member DABC Commission.

Giani, who is already the executive director of the Department of Commerce, said she will not be paid for taking on the new post. She said she has been assured by the governor the new appointment will be temporary.

She took over as DABC director in August, after the governor called for and received the resignation of the department's longtime executive director, Dennis Kellen, amid allegations of violations of the state's procurement policies.

Details of the alleged wrongdoing are expected to surface in an legislative audit of the department now under way. Giani told the Senate Business and Labor Confirmation Committee the auditors are "doing a yeoman's job" and that concerns she has raised "will be revealed when their report comes out."

Later, she told reporters the audit will show that while there are "good people" working for the department, there are some who may not be following "the direction of the law." She declined to be more specific.

The committee chairman, Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said auditors have asked for more time to finish their work. They had originally been expected to complete the audit by the end of September but now are looking to report to lawmakers in October.

During the hearing, Valentine asked both White and Giani about the relationship between the commission and the department. Unlike other state agencies, the department head reports to the commission, not the governor.

Giani said since assuming the executive director's job, she has provided the commission with weekly reports but is also providing information about the department to the governor.

"We're not trying to hide the ball. We're wanting to keep everyone apprised of everything that's happening," she said.

White, a vice president of the Western Electric Coordinating Council who has served in a number of government posts over the years, said it will be "an interesting challenge" to carry out all of the oversight functions as a member of a part-time commission.

Valentine said lawmakers may look to "rebalance the role" of both the executive director and the commission, likely during the 2012 Legislature. Members of the committee said repeatedly their goal is to get the department out of the newspaper headlines.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com Twitter: dnewspolitics

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