SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are balking at one of Gov. Gary Herbert's nominees to the expanded state alcohol commission because she is a member of his Cabinet.
Herbert nominated state Department of Commerce Executive Director Francine Giani to the seven-member board last month. Giani was scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, but her name was not on the agenda.
Sen. John Valentine, chairman of the Senate Business and Labor Confirmation Committee, said lawmakers have concerns about the head of one state department serving on the commission of another department.
"It just really, really confuses the lines of authority back to the governor," the Orem Republican said.
Valentine said the resistance to Giani is not a reflection of her or her abilities.
"It's not the person. It's the position," he said.
In a related matter, the state Senate confirmed Herbert's nominee, Salvador Petilos, as the new executive director of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on Wednesday.
Petilos previously worked as the deputy director of the state Department of Administrative Services.
"We're moving forward as a new team hopefully in a more collaborative manner," he said.
As the result of several scathing audits that showed mismanagement and possible criminal behavior, the Legislature restructured DABC l this year. It made the executive director directly accountable to the governor and expanded the liquor commission from five members to seven.
The commission is set up to be an independent body, Valentine said. Having a Cabinet member on the board "muddies the waters so much that it becomes too much of a closed system," he said. "The lines get really blurred."
Valentine said he understands the governor wants some eyes and ears on the commission, as well as someone with institutional knowledge.
Giani has worked in state government in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years. She has directed the commerce department since 2005. Herbert appointed her as interim director of DABC last fall as part of an effort to clean up the beleaguered agency. She served until June, when the governor tabbed Petilos.
Giani referred questions about her nomination to the governor's office.
Valentine said Herbert might have to decide whether he wants Giani on the alcohol commission or continuing as commerce department director. He said he has talked to the governor about his concerns, but they haven't reached a resolution at this point.
Herbert spokeswoman Ally Isom said the governor's office is reviewing legislators' concerns "to see if there is anything of merit to them."
"The governor has said he'd rather do it right than do quick," Isom said, adding Herbert believes Giani is "eminently qualified" for the position.
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