ABC Board endures shortage of members - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

ABC Board endures shortage of members

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - For the past two months, no new liquor licenses have been issued - this not as a result of any controversial filings rather simply the lack of members currently in the Alcohol Beverage Control Board.

ABC Board vice chair John Ray Taitano says he's aware of the dismay expressed by the island community over his board's inability to take action on several applications as a result of not having enough members.

"We've have had, our ABC compliance guys have talked to us and have expressed that the public is a little irritated by not having a quorum but then again everybody is trying to do its best and having volunteers and things like that," he said.

There are five positions on the board, only two of which are currently occupied - one by Taitano, the other by Craig Thompson. The board last met more than two months ago in May before one of its members resigned and moved to a different board. "Not having a board restricts us from doing any meetings and without any meeting we can't approve any new licenses, name transfers, temporary licenses things like that," he said.

In fact Taitano notes as of July, the ABC Division has 14 permanent licenses that are pending as well as two temporary licenses - they range from new businesses to new bars to wine tastings. Depending on how long it takes to fill the board, it could increase. He says this obviously negatively affects businesses financially.

"Only because they can't do business, they've already paid the $1,000 or $500 to get the license and now they cannot sell liquor. If it's a bar they can open up to sell food but they can't sell any types of liquor," he said.

With both of its current members terms set to expire in the upcoming months, other members will have to be considered. Senator Michael San Nicolas meanwhile has sent two letters to the Governor's Office informing him of all the vacancies of the boards within his purview and asking them to be filled. San Nicolas adds he has even heard request to simply have the director authorize and sign off on temporary licenses until the board is filled.

"But there are a reason why we have that process in place to review all of these applications because we don't want it to turn into the wild west of all you got to do is know the right person, have the right phone call made and boom you're able to get a temporary license for whatever it is you want to do we need to have that check and balance and that's why those boards are so important and that's why getting those positions filled is so important," he said.

And as it appears difficult to appoint members who are willing to serve on the ABC Board or any of the other boards, he recommends the governor appoint several of the unclassified employees who serve at his pleasure.  Two individuals have since been appointed in June - Belinda Mejia and Renie Llaneta. Mejia had her confirmation hearing last week with Llaneta expected to be heard sometime this month. And despite not having a quorum, director John Camacho has called for the ABC Board to meet Friday. He believes there is still a possibility for the board to meet and act on some of the agenda items like approving applications and licenses. He's waiting to see if the attorney general's office as well as the governor's legal counsel agree otherwise.

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