ATC Audit outlines areas of concern

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Robert Ross has owned and operated Duvic's in Baton Rouge since 2008 and says he and his employees have passed every compliance check by Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control during that time.

"That's why we're 21 and over. It makes it a lot easier on my employees but they understand that there are consequences," Ross says. "It's crucial to their job to ID everyone that comes in here because it's a privilege to have this license and we want to obey every law."

An audit released Monday however concludes the ATC conducted more than 50 percent fewer checks in 2013 than it did in 2012. The audit also states those checks were often performed on businesses with no recent issues while others that did receive violations for underage sales were not checked again in a timely manner. Ross, who says Duvic's was checked three times in 2013 alone, believes the vendors who have a history of illegal sales should be more closely watched.

"There should be some kind of standard, maybe if they can plan it out being in a certain area a certain amount of time maybe but there are a lot of places in Baton Rouge and they only have a certain amount of resources. They're doing a good job but they could do a little more," Ross says.

ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert agrees the state audit revealed issues with some establishments being checked more often than others but adds those concerns that are already being addressed.

"We recognize we aren't perfect but when I find a state employee that's just trying to skirt by and go check a good business six times there is a problem with that and that's one of the issues we've addressed and appreciate auditor pointing it out," said Hebert.

Hebert also points out the audit does not highlight the positive strides the ATC has made since he took over in 2011 including going from a department with a $500,000 deficit to an agency with more than a one million dollar surplus.

"Of course we can get better and this running ATC like a business, we will run it like a business and we will take auditor's recommendations and go ahead and implement them and we're going to make ATC a much better place for taxpayers," added Hebert.

Ross says he understands the ATC's limitations when it comes to resources and manpower and adds the ultimate goal is to stop underage sales which he fully supports. In the meantime he says he and his staff will operate as if an agent will walk in the door at any moment.

"Every day here we operate like there's going to be one, we pretty much expect one every day," Ross says.

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