Gov. Tom Corbett's campaign to privatize state-owned liquor stores is expected to get a new player on the governor's side when the Senate returns to work later this month, a Republican official said Saturday.
The governor's appointment of Philadelphia attorney Kenneth Trujillo means the governor has his first chance to see a majority of his appointees on the three-person board. And Mr. Trujillo is an appointee who "obviously has a perspective on the liquor system that the governor has," said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, who has led the charge for privatization with the governor.
"I do not know the gentleman personally, but I understand that he wants to move the governor's perspective forward," Mr. Turzai said.
Mr. Corbett repeatedly expressed support for the privatization of the liquor system. The makeup of the Liquor Control Board has taken an increasing political import in recent years as the debate between the governor and opponents of the privatization of Pennsylvania's stores heats up.
"He's definitely somebody -- from what I hear, from what I've been told -- who understands the governor's direction," Mr. Turzai said.
Mr. Trujillo's appointment must be approved by two-thirds of the state Senate, which reconvenes Oct. 15.
Mr. Trujillo is a Philadelphia attorney who served as Philadelphia City Solicitor and was appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2009 to serve as a commissioner on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for a three-year term. He is the first Hispanic to be appointed to the Liquor Control Board, and his confirmation was urged by members of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs.
He replaces Patrick Stapleton, who left the board last Thursday after serving for 15 years. Mr. Stapleton is the subject of a state ethics investigation looking into whether he accepted inappropriate gifts while serving on the board.
The switch was a chance to breathe fresh perspective into the board, Mr. Turzai said.
"I think that the leadership of this particular board needed to reflect the new administration's perspective, and the old board was antiquated and in many ways out of touch," he said. "They did not have a 21st-century approach to the sale of wine and spirits."
But Mr. Trujillo's appointment by the pro-privatization governor still made it difficult to read the tea leaves on his stance on the controversial issue, said John Rzodkiewicz, a union steward with the LCB.
"[Mr. Trujillo] was a Rendell appointment" to the gaming control board, said Mr. Rzodkiewicz. And he's replacing Mr. Stapleton, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Tom Ridge but opposed privatization in recent years.
Erich Schwartzel: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1455. First Published October 7, 2012 4:00 AM