Investigation into Area TABC Actions Continues - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/20/04

Investigation into Area TABC Actions Continues

NewsChannel 11 first told you about the investigation the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's regional captain launched after complaints that agents were harassing bar owners and patrons. Captain, Dan Cullers, spent Wednesday morning meeting with the District Attorney's office. They discussed case dismissals and conviction rates. The rest of the day was spent meeting with bar owners and interviewing people who have specific complaints against local TABC agents.

Captain Cullers says the number of alcohol related criminal citations the TABC has issued is up a significant amount over the past year, for one simple reason. "The activity has definitely increased over the last year probably a good percentage and there's a good reason for that what I can tell you is we've increased our field agents from two to five. We just received three new agents in June."

Captain Cullers is taking complaints against the TABC very seriously. He urges anyone who has information to contact him. He says anonymous complaints aren't very helpful in the investigation.

In the meantime, NewsChannel 11 talked with two people who have had rough experiences with TABC agents. One a local bar owner and the other a 24-year-old who's battling it out in court after he says he was thrown in jail for having one beer. Tanner Touchstone says, "When I asked him why, he grabbed my shirt, threw me out of my chair. Another officer who was sitting nearby came up and grabbed me by the other shoulder, picked me up and carried me out of the bar. These guys need to be held responsible for their actions. I know they wouldn't like to spend anytime in jail."

Co-owner of Jake's Bar & Grill, Scott Stephenson, says, "I just wish they would not always think we're criminals and treat us fairly and not be out to fine us any chance, for any violation." Stephenson was even hesitant to talk to NewsChannel 11 today for fear of retaliation from agents who he says answer to no one and have no consequences for their actions.

Once the local investigation is complete, a report and recommendations will be sent to Austin where further actions will be determined.

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