The embattled head of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is downplaying an unusually public display of tension at the state agency he runs. Steve Pharo says the spat isn't affecting the OLCC's ability to do its job.
Governor John Kitzhaber has been pressuring Steve Pharo for months to step down as head of the agency that regulates alcohol sales in Oregon. Pharo has refused, saying he works at the pleasure of not the governor, but the five member board that oversees the OLCC.
Now, newly released public documents show the head of that board is highly displeased with Pharo. Cassandra SkinnerLopata wrote a blistering three-page email to Kitzhaber's staff following a February legislative hearing. She complained that Pharo's lack of preparation made her and other OLCC representatives look like "bumbling idiots."
Pharo says despite the internal squabble, the OLCC’s day to day operations are normal.
"I don't think it's having any impact at all, because our job is to go ahead and focus and move forward," he says. "And I think that's what we're certainly trying to do right now."
The feud comes as the grocery industry prepares to lobby the legislature next year to allow private control of liquor sales in Oregon.
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