Oregon Liquor Board Head Resigns in Scandal Over Rare Bourbon

Steve Marks, director of the Oregon Liquor & Cannabis Commission, will step down at 5 p.m. Wednesday, after the commission is expected to appoint an interim director.

Marks resignation follows an announcement by the Oregon attorney general that she will launch a criminal investigation into a long-standing practice in which liquor commission staff, including Marks, sent rare bottles of bourbon the certain stores where they could purchase it.  The effect was to deny the public, which had to bid for the rare whiskeys in an auction in which the odds might reach 1 in 5,000, the ability to buy the rare, highly price brands.  One employee said the practice was widespread and included state lawmakers.

Last Wednesday, Gov. Tina Kotek sent a letter to members of the commission asking them to fire five managers who admitted to the practice.  She had already asked Marks to resign as part of a reorganization of state agency leadership before she learned of the bourbon purchases.  

Oregon Public Broadcasting blamed the scandal on the fact Oregon is a control state in which distilled spirits can be sold only in package stores operated by the state and managed by liquor agents selected by the OLCC commissioners.