Closing time: The LCB's CEO should leave at his retirement

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It's not as if it's unprecedented. The question is, is it necessary?

The CEO of the state Liquor Control Board, Joe Conti, is retiring from his $156,000-a-year job on Feb. 2. But the former legislator will be back two weeks later for up to 95 days of work this year at the rate of $80 an hour before suffering any loss of his state pension. Nice work if you can get it.

That's the equivalent of 19 weeks of paychecks at his final rate of pay. A state retiree can be brought back under these terms if it's an emergency situation approved by the Office of Administration, a Cabinet-level agency under the governor. The "emergency" for which Mr. Conti is needed at the state-run liquor system is to help with legislative budget hearings and the leadership transition.

Sorry, but it doesn't sound like an emergency to us and, given Gov. Tom Corbett's earlier pledge to abolish the CEO position, it's also a missed opportunity. Although the LCB and the state's liquor monopoly date to 1933, the agency's CEO job was created only six years ago by Gov. Ed Rendell. Joe Conti has been its sole occupant.

Given Mr. Corbett's plans to privatize wine and spirits sales, why did his administration give its blessing to keeping around the fellow who gave Pennsylvania that colossal merchandising failure, the Soviet-style wine kiosk machines? It doesn't make sense.

If the governor instead had put pressure on the LCB to get on with the future and hire someone who was more oriented to private enterprise, it could have given Pennsylvania a jump, as the liquor reform unfolds, on joining the 21st century.

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