- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A central Pennsylvania district attorney said Wednesday his office will review findings from state ethics investigators that three former top officials at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board accepted thousands of dollars in gifts, liquor, dinners and golf trips.

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said he expects to get the case because Attorney General Kathleen Kane has a conflict of interest. Kane’s husband’s family company has a long-standing business relationship with the Liquor Control Board, handling its Scranton-area distribution center and its mid-Atlantic inbound trucking contract. The contracts are worth more than $12 million a year, according to the Liquor Control Board.

The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission on Monday ordered the three former officials - chairman Patrick Stapleton III, chief executive Joe Conti and marketing director James Short - to pay the state more than $23,000, the approximate value of the gifts, according to ethics investigators.

However, the commission is not a criminal investigative agency, and it sends its orders to the attorney general’s office for its review, said Robert Caruso, the ethics commission’s executive director.

Pennsylvania state law does not allow Liquor Control Board members and staff to accept any gifts from the industry it regulates. The law that applies to most state officials is far less stringent. Under that law, gifts can be accepted, even from lobbyists and people in regulated industries, but they must be reported on ethics commission disclosure filings under certain circumstances.

Travel, lodging and hospitality costs of $650 or more per year from any one source must be reported, while gifts of $250 or more per year from any source must be disclosed.

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