VOCM News has obtained a copy of legal correspondence from lawyers representing the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation to the Citizen’s Representative concerning his investigation into allegations of nepotism against former CEO Steve Winter.
Winter was dismissed from the position last week by government, and Sharon Sparkes, the former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of NLC who had been previously dismissed by Winter, was reinstated and appointed as interim CEO.
Citizen’s Representative Barry Fleming conducted an investigation into allegations of nepotism at NLC filed by Boyd Goodyear. In a letter to Fleming dated May 8, 2017, O’Brien White—the lawyers representing NLC—agreed with some of Fleming’s findings, including that then-CEO Steve Winter was not in a conflict of interest.
They did not however accept Fleming’s finding that Boyd Goodyear—who filed the complaint of nepotism against NLC—was treated unfairly by having to compete with Dialog Wines, a company owned by Winter’s son, Greg.
The document contends that Winter was not involved with purchasing decisions outside of the Futures Program—a program by which wine is bought on release directly from what are known as “negociants” in Bordeaux.
The letter says that decisions as to what products NLC will list or delist are made according to a documented and published process that rates and ranks wines on different criteria, and the CEO is not involved.
The document states, “The NLC believes that reasonable people, fully informed about this process and about the law with respect to conflict of interest would not conclude that a conflict of interest exists.”
The NLC responded to the Draft Report by saying that “the statements made about these purchase orders are, to the best of NLC’s knowledge, factually incorrect”.
NLC did not deny that Dialog Wines is a significant agent for Bordeaux wines, but it was not one of the dominant wine agents in the local market.