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January 25, 2013

Liquor board chief will retire, return as pricey consultant

HARRISBURG — The chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board plans to retire next week, but he’ll be back within days as a consultant.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Friday that Joe Conti will retire Feb. 1, but he’ll return Feb. 19 – for up to 95 days at $80.16 an hour – under a provision in state law that allows former employees to return on an emergency basis while collecting their pensions.

A board spokeswoman said the arrangement will allow it to continue benefiting from Conti’s experience and expertise as it prepares for legislative hearings on the agency’s budget and launches a search for Conti’s successor.

“Since he possesses important strategic information as well as expertise critical to the daily operation of the PLCB, the agency will also benefit from his guidance on the continued effective operation of the PLCB,” said the spokeswoman, Stacey Kriedeman.

Gov. Tom Corbett wants to abolish the CEO position as part of his plan to privatize wine and liquor sales – a push he plans to renew this year. But that requires approval of the three-member board, which has one vacancy and only one Corbett appointee.

The board also is contending with a state Ethics Commission probe into the state inspector general’s allegations that Conti and other top officials improperly accepted gifts and favors from vendors in 2011.

It was unclear how many hours Conti, a former legislator from Bucks County, will work. In a typical 37.5-hour state work week, he would receive about $3,000. Over 95 days, he would be paid about $57,000, although the days do not have to be consecutive and can be stretched over a calendar year.

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