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Ex-alcohol regulator joins the industry

January 05, 2007|Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — California's former top alcohol regulator has taken a job advising lawyers for the industry he regulated until his retirement in August.

Jerry Jolly, a 31-year veteran of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, began work this week as a consultant to the wine, beer and spirits-industry practice of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, a San Francisco law firm with offices worldwide, including Sacramento.

Watchdogs who monitor the industry called Jolly's career move common for alcohol regulators -- and regrettable.

"This is the usual practice and it's really unfortunate, this revolving door between regulators and the alcohol industry," said James Mosher, director of the Center for the Study of Law and Enforcement in Felton, which tracks alcohol industry marketing and sales practices. "It certainly creates the impression that the industry has additional ways of influencing the regulators."

Jolly, who by law cannot lobby the alcohol agency for one year after his August retirement, said he saw no conflict in working as a Sacramento consultant for lawyers who help beer, wine and liquor companies navigate state regulations. His former department regulates the manufacture, sale, purchase, possession and transportation of alcoholic drinks in California.

"If it's done right," Jolly said, "there shouldn't be any problems at all."

James M. Seff, head of Pillsbury's wine, beer and spirits group, credited Jolly with a "can-do" attitude. "It's very, very helpful to have someone who sat at the top and knew what was going on," said Seff.

As top alcohol regulator, Seff said, Jolly was "always protective of the state's prerogatives."

"He never gave us anything we didn't deserve," said Seff. "But he was willing to work with industry to get to yes on a lot of issues where we were going to get there anyway but it would have taken a good deal longer."

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