Thursday, December 14, 2006

Same Old Same Old

I’ve been reading a lot about outgoing state Senator Joe Conti being named CEO of the state’s liquor board. There has been a lot of discussion and some outrage. Here are a few excerpts from newspapers:

Pennsylvania's 643 liquor stores have been racking up record sales in recent years, but it was concern about the system's rising expenses that led to the hiring of a just-retired state senator to fill the newly created job of chief executive.

Bucks County Republican Joe Conti, also a Penn State trustee, was hired Wednesday by a 2-1 vote, with a strong dissent from Liquor Control Board Chairman Jonathan Newman.
Newman said Conti's salary of $150,000 -- more than twice what Newman makes -- is too high, and the process by which he was selected was too secretive. (“Ex-senator hired as new CEO: Secretive selection, $150,000 salary draws criticism,” Mark Scolforo Centre Daily Times 12/14/06)

In another article, one of the liquor control board members, Thomas Goldsmith said this:

"It's a bargain price. This is a $1.7 billion business," he said. "In the private sector, a CEO would be making $1 million a year."

[Board member T. J.] Stapleton called the salary "peanuts," adding that Conti "is very knowledgable about the operation of the agency. And this isn't an agency that's easy to understand."

If I remember correctly, we the voters are supposed to be tickled pink to be getting a few hundred dollars back on our property taxes. I don’t think that was called peanuts before the election. The article goes on:

Conti becomes the third known retiring state lawmaker to quickly parlay his legislative career into a lucrative job in state government. Many others in the General Assembly's large outgoing class are trying to do the same.

Last week, Mark McNaughton, a Republican who represented the Harrisburg suburbs in the House for 10 years, was nominated by Speaker John M. Perzel to the Gaming Control Board. He would replace outgoing member Joseph W. "Chip" Marshall III in a job that pays $145,000, more than double the $72,187 McNaughton was making as a legislator when he left office Nov. 30.

Brett Feese, who represented Lycoming County for 12 years in the House, the last two years as the Appropriations Committee chairman, began work as chief counsel to House Republicans Dec. 1, the day after his term ended. He is making $155,000 annually. (“$150,000 LCB post for retired legislator: Joe Conti will become CEO, a new position. The liquor board's chair said he was "very disappointed" by the move.” By Mario F. Cattabiani Philadelphia Inquirer 12/13/06

Conti has owned at least two restaurants and held a liquor license himself as well as having served on the senate committee that oversees liquor control issues. No one can doubt that he his qualified. It is the process that is unseemly. He is the only person interviewed for the job and that just never looks good.

I wish I could muster a little outrage but the whole thing just makes me tired. It never ends. Could we at least ask for a little window dressing? Couldn’t the governor bring in a few courtesy interviews? Humor the electorate at little bit, go through a process.

I spent part of this evening at a PTA meeting where the conversation swirled around the school district budget and the restrictions placed on it by that bit of wording the governor stuck into the property tax reform bill. The possibility of losing music and art weigh heavily in the air. Classes are likely to be larger next year in at least one grade. We are trying to find someone to volunteer to run our major fundraiser of the year, which brings in about $10,000. It pays for classroom and playground balls and lets us buy all the teachers a $50 gift card to help pay for the things they buy for their rooms and students. As a family we are preparing for the holidays. It is just too hard sometimes to watch everything that needs to be watched, but it does not mean that it isn’t noted. This incident and other similar incidents are noted and they leave a bad taste.


Anonymous said...

Since Conti wanted to run for the 8th congressional district but was prevented from doing that in favor of a Fitzpatrick endorsement the first time around, the Rendell decision didn't surprise me at all. This appointment certainly looks like a Rendell strategy to discourage Conti from running against Murphy, thus keeping the 8th in Dem control. He is a smooth operator that fast Eddie.

AboveAvgJane said...

Anon, that is an interesting theory. I wonder, though, what would keep the former senator from simply leaving this job in 2 years to run if he wanted to? I cannot speak to the particulars of this individual who, except for that one notable instance, is often spoken well of, but loyalty in politics, especially between those of differing parties, is not a well established tradition

Anonymous said...

Because if he did make a promise in exchange for the position offered ( and I really have no first hand knowlege if that is the case) he will keep his word. He's just that type of guy. (Really)