Politics & Government

Conflict noted in ABC review

Acknowledging a potential conflict of interest, the head of the Mecklenburg County ABC Board says it will scrutinize the possible lease of a building owned by a state ABC commissioner.

John Chanon said “there's no question” it could be a conflict to lease the South Boulevard site from a company in which state commissioner Mike Joyner is part owner. Joyner is managing partner of Blue Sky Partners LLC, which has a financial interest in the site of the old Mantis restaurant in South End across from the new Lowe's home improvement store.

“Of course it is a conflict of interest,” Chanon said. “That causes us a lot of additional work in our evaluation to make sure we are dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's if, in fact, in fact we decide that's a desirable site.”

Mecklenburg ABC officials, who have relocated or renovated several stores, have been looking for a retail site near uptown. In April, they abandoned plans for a store on West Trade Street after neighbors expressed concern.

Though local boards are autonomous, state commissioners have a final say on approval of store locations as well as some oversight of local board members and employees.

Joyner says if the county board leases his site, and if issues arose involving it, he would recuse himself from any vote. He said the important thing is disclosure.

“I do not believe it's a conflict of interest for me to send them a proposal and for me to sign a lease with them if they choose to do so,” he said, “as long as everything is disclosed.”

Fred Gregory, chief counsel for the state ABC commission, said state officials routinely look for any conflicts. If any is suspected, he said, they check with the attorney general and the state ethics commission.

“We will not take any action on anything until we get their opinion,” Gregory said.

Chanon said the board would be “extra cautious” in evaluating the site.

“So if we do in fact enter into a lease,” he said, the board will ensure “that it is a market rate and that we are serving the best interest of the public.”

Board CEO Calvin McDougal said the agency is in “the very preliminary stages” of looking at the South Boulevard site.

“We're not even sure the site configuration will work for us,” he said.

The Mecklenburg County board itself is under scrutiny.

The FBI launched an investigation following the resignation in May of the board's chief law enforcement officer, Bill Cox. He was suspended over questions about how he handled violations reported by agents.