A liquor control board member and four top-level employees of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board were cleared of ethics violations related to their purchase of leftover, high-end wine and spirits (including bourbons like Pappy Van Winkle) that were part of a state lottery.

Thousands of Pennsylvania residents entered the limited-release lotteries, but in 2019 and 2020, liquor control board member Michael Negra and the employees were given the chance to buy some of the bottles before the public even knew they were available.

The ethics commission said Negra and the employees—Carl Jolly, Tom Bowman, Bryan Kelleher and Cliff McFarland— did not violate the Public Office and Employee Ethics Act when they “used the authority of [their] public position to obtain information not available to the general public, and used that information to purchase alcohol that was limited in quantity and unavailable for purchase by the general public, due to insufficient clear and convincing evidence of a pecuniary benefit.”

As part of the ethics commission’s orders, the men agreed to not “purchase any items offered by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board outside of the process by which a commonwealth resident may purchase such items.”

According to The Patriot-News, the largest newspaper serving the Harrisburg, Penn., metropolitan area, “Bowman bought a $40 bottle of Weller 12-year reserve bourbon left over from a July 2019 lottery that drew about 8,290 entrants and had just 180 winners. In December 2019, when another limited-release lottery was held for George T. Stagg Bourbon which sold for $110 a bottle, Bowman staked a claim on one of the 34 bottles leftover from a lottery that drew 9,753 entrants.”

Click here to read The Patriot-News’ full account of what happened, the ethics commission’s ruling and how the practice of confidentially sharing information with PLCB employees of leftover lottery items was discovered.

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