ABC records detail trips, manager’s pay raise
By Jessie Burchette
Records released by the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board show about $24,000 spent at restaurants and hotels from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Fla., over nearly two years.
The records provided to the Salisbury Post on Thursday afternoon also show General Manager Terry Osborne received an 8.9 percent pay increase in 2008, while other employees got a 3.5 percent raise. Osborne’s current salary is $75,000.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to delay a planned presentation on ABC system operations from the ABC Board until the requested records were provided. Some commissioners have questioned why the seven-store system has annual sales of $7 million but provides far less in profits for county and municipal coffers than other ABC systems across the state with equal or less in sales.
Osborne gave copies of the records to the Post and to John Hudson, the ABC Board’s attorney, who gave them to County Attorney Jay Dees.
Osborne’s raise came after the local ABC system built three new stores and doubled its territory to stretch from Salisbury to the Mecklenburg County line, according to Marny Hendrick, chairman of the ABC Board.
“We had finished going through our expansion,” Hendrick said. “We feel like his salary is in line with the size of our system.”
Up until the 2008 raise, he said, Osborne had received only cost-of-living increases.
Hendrick said the board developed a pay plan modeled after similar-sized systems in the state to make sure pay was not out of line.
According to the credit-card records, two ABC officials ó Osborne and Bill Belvin, the system’s former chief law enforcement officer ó had MasterCard credit cards during the two-year period covered by the statements. Belvin resigned in April 2008.
The Chase MasterCard account summary statements cover the two-year period between June 11, 2007, and May 2009. The statements do not include any information about the number of people served at the restaurants or the number of rooms or people covered in the hotel charges.
Osborne said Friday the expenses contained in the reports involve ABC business in the county, as well as ABC-related work statewide including law enforcement and work in support of legislation to control underage drinking.
He also said trips to Washington, D.C., were for meetings at the U.S. Department of Justice, and with two liquor groups, the American Century Council and the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.
The Century Council provides free literature, videos and speakers to promote responsible alcohol consumption and combat underage drinking.
The ABC Board “charged me two and a half years ago to try to find organizations that we could work with to eradicate underage drinking,” Osborne said.
The group has brought in speakers to address high school and middle school students.
Osborne also noted that for a year or more, the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board has approved in advance all of his trips to Raleigh and Washington, D.C.
The $24,000 total in the Chase MasterCard statements include nearly $2,000 for nights at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville in July 2007 for the annual state ABC Board conference. Typically, most ABC Board members and Osborne attend. Osborne said Friday the charges represent a portion of the total cost for the conference. A portion of the cost is paid by check.
In July 2008, the state meeting was in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where the charges totaled about $1,000. Part of that was for two nights at the Marriott Resort in Myrtle Beach at $421 per night. A series of other charges are included for restaurants in and around Myrtle Beach.
In the same month, July 2007, the statement included a $344 charge from Rosen Hotels Centre in Orlando, Fla., and a $193 charge at the Hampton Inn in Savannah, Ga. Osborne said those charges were incurred by Belvin attending a national liquor law enforcement event.
The charges show Osborne made numerous trips to Washington, D.C., where he made charges at hotels and restaurants. Belvin accompanied him on some trips. Osborne said some other ABC employees involved in education have also accompanied him. And in some instances, Osborne said, they visited U.S. Rep. Howard Coble and other federal offices.
Charges for July-August 2008 included stays at the Holiday Inn Express in Washington with multiple nights at $176 each. There were also stays at the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel, where charges over a three-day period ranged from $352 to $488 per day.
Charges at restaurants for the trip included $164 at Billy Martin’s Tavern and $20 at the Billy Goat Tavern.
Charges for July 11-Aug. 10, 2008 amounted to $3,767.
Osborne said he now makes fewer trips to Washington. His most recent trip was in March, with a $478 charge from the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel.
The statements from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, show charges for eight trips to Washington or the area. Most trips included charges ranging from $20 to $164 at Michie Tavern in Charlottesville, Va., Kelly’s Irish Times and Old Ebbit Grill, both in Washington.
Other charges were from hotels in Raleigh, Jonesville and Sparta. Osborne said Belvin was involved in a law enforcement operation in a county near Jonesville.
Charges on the card also include meals at restaurants in Salisbury, Kannapolis and Concord, including frequent stops at Logan’s Roadhouse, Panera Bread and Buffalo Wild Wings, with tabs ranging from $15 to $78.
Osborne said he often meets at local restaurants with people who contact him about community issues including the possibility of adults furnishing alcohol to teens.
A Dec. 24, 2008, charge at the Farmhouse in Salisbury totaled $228, a Christmas Eve breakfast session for ABC employees.
ABC picked up tabs at Ruby Tuesday’s in Kannapolis of $143 on April 2 and $218 on April 8, 2008.
The Concord charges include $46 at Hooters, but a handwritten note indicates that Belvin and Osborne repaid that charge.
Restaurant charges also reflect travel across the state, including a $95 charge at the 42nd Street Oyster Bar, $103 at Big Ed’s Market and Red Dragon Chinese Restaurant, all in Raleigh, and $15 at the Biscuitville in Thomasville. Other charges include restaurants in Mebane, Lexington, Asheville, Hickory, Charlotte and Statesville.
Osborne serves on a state ABC legislative liaison committee that works to get favorable bills passed in the General Assembly.
Among repeat charges on the statement are $4 at a Salisbury Exxon station and $19 for monthly OnStar service.
The cards also contain numerous charges at Home Depot in Kannapolis, Lowe’s and some furniture stores related to the opening of the two new ABC stores in Kannapolis.
In addition, Osborne and three other ABC employees had two separate cards for gas purchases The employees included Belvin, warehouse supervisor Tommy Goodman and Roy Purvis, a retired deputy who handles security and in-house law enforcement training.
Osborne said the gas cards covered purchases for three vehicles ó his car, a delivery truck and a vehicle driven by Purvis ó all owned by ABC.
Monthly reports show the charges on the Fleet Service card for the two-year period between June 2006 and June 2008 ran between $200 and $1,000 a month. Charges on an Exxon Mobile card for the same time period ran between $50 and $200 monthly.
In addition, there are multiple gas charges on the MasterCard statements.
A record requested by the Post shows ABC has spent $3,500 since July 1, 2006 on “public service announcements” on local radio stations WSTP and WSAT.
Elizabeth Cook contributed to this story.