No state money used for trip
RALEIGH – Doug Fox, chairman of the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, and the commission’s executive director, Mike Herring, flew to Ireland last week for a six-day trip to meet with Irish distillery representatives and attend golf’s Ryder Cup.
Fox, a Wilmington lawyer and appointee of Gov. Mike Easley, and Herring said Thursday that no state money was spent on the trip. They were invited by Bord Bia, an Irish government agency that serves as a chamber of commerce for the country’s food and drink industries. Bord Bia also paid for the trip, both men said.
"It wasn’t something we solicited," Fox said. "We were asked to be there. They have an ongoing relationship with us."
Sherri Johnson, Easley’s press secretary, said the administration learned of the trip from the Observer and was looking into it.
"If there’s no state money spent, it sounds like it’s all right," said Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, and a member of the House committee that oversees the ABC commission.
Bob Hall, research director of the nonpartisan watchdog group Democracy North Carolina, said tax dollars are only part of the equation.
"It’s a boondoggle," Hall said. "I don’t think there’s any way around seeing it as a luxury outing that is not integral to their public service."
Mike Joyner, a Charlotte commercial real estate developer and one of the other two ABC commissioners, did not go on the trip. He said he has traveled on only one commission trip since he was appointed five years ago. It was a day trip to a convention of local ABC boards that met in Myrtle Beach in 2001. (more…)