02/03/10 — ABC chief: Local board is following the rules

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ABC chief: Local board is following the rules

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 3, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County ABC Board Business Manager Mike Myrick Tuesday morning sought to set the local board apart from the scandals in other counties that have caused the state and public to cast a critical eye toward the system and have raised the specter of privatization.

Privatization, mentioned in passing by county commission Chairman Jack Best last month, wasn't addressed by commissioners following Myrick's presentation to them.

Commissioners praised Myrick for making the operations of the local board so transparent.

"I think that you are setting the bar here in Wayne County," Commissioner Steve Keen said.

Privatization of the ABC system has been the topic of some discussion statewide following a study that suggested the move might be a way to help smaller, struggling stores.

Also, critics were given ammunition by controversies concerning a liquor company that paid for a $12,700 dinner attended by Mecklenburg County Alcoholic Beverage Control leaders and the New Hanover County father-and-son store administrators who were paid more than $400,000 combined a year.

Myrick outlined the local board's operation and provided commissioners with a breakdown of salaries and sales and revenues in the county.

As president of the state ABC Association, Myrick said he has encouraged local board to talk with their appointing bodies.

"The bottom line is that they should mirror what the appointing board does," he said.

For example, the local ABC board's travel policy mirrors that of the county, he said. Board members will not attend the national ABC conference. Some might attend the state event, he said.

Also, once the county adopts a code of ethics, the ABC board will follow suit, Myrick said.

Myrick agreed that the system, which has been in place for a long time, needs to be looked at. However, the system works, he said.

As for the salary controversy, if the state decided to make the salaries consistent across the state then local employees "will get a raise," he said.

Myrick, who has 13 years of experience, receives an annual salary of $82,388. The store managers make anywhere from $22,006 with two years of experience to $47,424 with 35 years. Salaries for clerks range from $18,824 with one year of experience to $29,952 with 20 years.

Part-time clerks make between $8 to $8.85 an hour.

"A few of our local ABC boards have been in the news lately and the news has not been good," he said. "Some ABC boards have made mistakes, and this has generated some perceptions that all ABC boards are making these mistakes. However, I know this is not true and I believe that all local ABC board employees are hard-working, honest people."

The mistakes must be corrected and safeguards put in place to keep them from happening again, he said.

Myrick said a state study had made some conclusions, including talk of privatization, based solely on profit.

The ABC system is self-sustaining and does not receive or require any state appropriation, he said. Rather, the ABC boards provide hundreds of millions of dollars to the state's general fund from their local sales.

"These funds also support law enforcement, alcohol education and rehabilitation," Myrick said. "North Carolina ranks sixth or seventh, depending on who talk to, in the nation in revenue from spirit sales and 45th in spirits per capita consumption.

"This is the balance a control state should have and demonstrates that our current system works."

For the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, local revenues were $1.6 million, of which $1.238 million went into the state budget's general fund. Another $78,356 went to the state Department of Revenue and $7,236 to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Local distributions were:

* $25,515 Wayne County alcohol rehabilitation

* $18,679 Wayne County law enforcement

* $4,635 town of Fremont

* $21,565 town of Mount Olive

* $93,800 city of Goldsboro

* $120,000 county of Wayne

* $2,000 Wayne County drug court.

The local ABC board oversees seven stores, five of which have increased sales for the period ending Dec. 31, 2009, compared to the same period in 2008. The smallest of the seven, Fremont, fell from $22,350 to $16,466 in sales.

It is the other store that is the surprise, Myrick said. Store No. 2 is the one from which local bars and restaurants buy their alcohol. Revenues there dropped from $86,181 to $68,413.

Figures for the other five stores were:

* Rosewood increased from $86,436 to $96,069

* Little River was up from $88,641 to $97,561

* Mount Olive rose from $131,158 to $147,883

* Landmark Drive store increased from $294,681 to $305,274

* Walnut Creek was up from $87,835 to $94,527.

For the period ending Dec. 2009 sales were $3,467,233, up $24,615, over the period ending December 2008 of $3,442,618.