In Short

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek recommends prison watchdog to lead scandal-ridden liquor agency

By: - February 14, 2023 12:16 pm
Distilled whiskey in Kentucky

Oregon liquor regulators had rare Kentucky bourbons set aside so that they could buy them. This whiskey was distilled in Kentucky in August 2016 to mark the total lunar eclipse from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Gov. Tina Kotek is recommending that the internal watchdog for Oregon’s prison system take over as interim director of the state’s liquor agency as it reels from a bourbon hoarding scandal. 

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission will consider Kotek’s recommendation of Craig Prins, inspector general for the Oregon Department of Corrections, during a meeting Wednesday morning. Current OLCC director Steve Marks will resign at the end of the day Wednesday after an internal investigation found Marks and five other top leaders used their positions to obtain rare bottles of expensive bourbon and other liquor. 

“Craig Prins brings the necessary experience in change management to correct the course of the commission and support the employees doing the work everyday,” Kotek said in a statement. “He shares my commitment to accountability and transparency, and his appointment will create an opportunity to strengthen oversight, improve customer service and begin to rebuild the public’s trust.” 

Prins has been the corrections department’s inspector general since 2016, overseeing internal investigations, hearings and grievances. He also has worked as a Multnomah County deputy district attorney, as the executive director of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission and as the deputy director of the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, overseeing investigations into police officers. 

Prins was a finalist last year for director of the Office of Public Defense Services, which oversees Oregon’s troubled public defense system. 

In a statement, Prins said he would remove the OLCC managers implicated in the internal investigation and fully cooperate with an ongoing criminal investigation into the agency. 

Deputy director Will Higlin, Chris Mayton, director of the distilled spirits program; Kai Nakashima, director of the office of information services, budget manager Bill Schuette and chief information officer Boba Subasic all were involved in setting aside liquor for personal use, according to the internal investigation. The agency’s spokesman has not responded to questions about their employment status. 

“I will lead with integrity, transparency and an unwavering commitment to serve Oregonians,” Prins said.

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.