AG report finds 'missing' wine wasn't really missing


No one stole $100,000 worth of wine during the move of a Portsmouth liquor store about a year ago, concludes Attorney General Michael Delaney in his long-awaited report on the incident.

The report was released Wednesday morning in Concord during the breakfast meeting of the Executive Council.

"The allegation that there was missing wine doesn't hold water," Delaney said when explaining his department's report to the governor and council. Rather, it was an "issue of confusion, not criminal conduct" that led to the missing wine.

"You sure you can't arrest anyone?" said Executive Councilor Chris Sununu in mock disappointment. After all this time anticipating the report, said Sununu, the result is that instead of finding out "who done it?" the conclusion was that, "instead, we are incompetent. Of course. We didn't know what we were doing."

The allegations of missing wine - the subject of an investigations by the State Liquor Commission's enforcement arm and a review by the Rockingham County attorney's office, were also partly responsible for the decision by former House Speaker Bill O'Brien to form a legislative committee to look into how the Liquor Commission operates.

The AG's report found that the missing wine resulted from the Nov. 30, 2011, move of the liquor store to a smaller site across the shopping plaza on Islington Street in Portsmouth.

Because of the new store size, some 2,000 bottles of wine were kept back. But, Delaney said, his investigation revealed that all of those bottles were accounted for -- either sold to local restaurants, moved over to the new store as shelf space allowed or transferred to other stores.

As for the 300 cases of wine reported as missing by employees, that was because they were using the wrong spreadsheet, the report finds.

The matter could have been cleared up in a week, the report finds, if someone had interviewed the person who created the database. Delaney said that his 33-page report involved the interviewing of 35 witnesses and cost "tens of thousands" of dollars.

"Probably more than the $100,000" in question," murmured Gov. John Lynch.

One lesson learned from the affair, said Executive Councilor Dan St. Hilaire, is that "Taking records home is a big no-no."

But Lynch disagreed, saying numerous officials took work home, including himself.

"I bring all the bills home to read them before signing them," said the outgoing governor.

"You read those?" quipped Sununu.

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