Leaders of the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC) were in the hot seat Thursday. The House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics called a hearing to question leaders about a controversial flier and their expensive traveling practices.
Members of the committee set a stern tone before the meeting even began by placing copies of the flier on the table where the leaders of the TABC would be sitting.
The flier depicted TABC Executive Director Sherry Cook along with a member of her staff and two contractors with beers in hand, on a jet, heading to a conference in California hosted by the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators (NCSLA).
Cook said the flier was made for a presentation for the conference and a version of it without the beers was used in a PowerPoint presentation. The flier caught the attention of the Texas Tribune which investigated and found the agency execs are spending thousands of dollars of taxpayer money going to conferences in Hawaii, San Diego and other cities.
In the hearing, Committee Chair Representative Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) shot down Cook's claims that she didn't ask for the flier to be made and it was just a joke.
"It seems like somebody put a lot of thought and effort into creating this flier or image on state computers, state employees, on state time. I still don't understand why it was done. You just say 'it was a joke,'" Davis said.
The flier was just the tip of the iceberg. The representatives also questioned the execs about their role with the NCSLA which gets money from the liquor industry. They also want to know why they have state vehicles, free gas and firearms all on the taxpayers dime.
No action was taken in the committee, but Davis hinted this won't be the last time they will discuss the issue.
In fact, the House-approved version of the budget includes an amendment to cut the travel budget for the TABC.