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OLCC executive director announces resignation following rare bourbon scandal

Steve Marks said he was honoring a request last week from Gov. Tina Kotek that he and other top officials resign from the agency.

SALEM, Ore. — The head of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission is resigning following reports that some of the state agency's leaders used their positions to give themselves the first shot at buying rare bottles of bourbon.

In a letter to the OLCC board of commissioners dated Monday, executive director Steve Marks said his resignation would take effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The brief letter makes no mention of the recent scandal, stating only that Gov. Tina Kotek requested the resignation and that Marks would honor that request because "the Governor is entitled to have her own management team."

News of the scandal first broke Wednesday when Kotek sent a letter to the OLCC board asking the commissioners to remove Marks and other leaders, alleging that they had "abused their position for personal gain," but without mentioning any specific details.

The following morning, multiple media outlets reported that an internal OLCC investigation had found that Marks and five other officials had diverted rare bourbons, including Pappy Van Winkle's 23-year-old whiskey, giving themselves the opportunity to buy the small-batch bottles before the public.

The Associated Press reported that Marks had denied violating Oregon ethics laws but acknowledged to investigators that he had received preferential treatment "to some extent" in obtaining the bourbon. None of the OLCC officials ever re-sold the whiskeys.

The Oregon Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the allegations, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced Friday, and an OLCC spokesman pledged that the agency would fully cooperate with the probe.

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