An audit of the New York State Liquor Authority indicates officials do little or no enforcement of the wholesale liquor industry, leading to violations of state laws the authority is supposed to enforce, reports the Buffalo News. State Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s audit, undertaken after liquor authority whistle-blower Chester Menkiena complained that millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks paid by wholesalers and manufacturers were ignored, showed the liquor authority waits for retailers to complain about irregularities. Retailers say they seldom complain, for fear of retaliation from the wholesalers they must buy from.
A News investigation last year pointed out many of the problems cited in the audit. Hevesi found that liquor wholesalers offered certain retailers free or reduced price products in violation of law, that authority officials rarely if ever checked for violations, and that there was little or no follow-up on investigations that were done. Auditors said the liquor authority denied them access to wholesale records and refused permission for auditors to go with them to the wholesalers’ facilities to view records. The News had reported that liquor manufacturers and wholesalers paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to retailers in cash, money orders and free trips to wineries.