Chief of Texas liquor agency shoots the messenger, denies corruption charges

It’s the holiday season, and joy and peace abound everywhere… if you’re watching the Hallmark Channel.

Early this morning (a Sunday, in case you didn’t notice), the executive director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sent a nastygram to one of his critics, defending the agency’s top cop against corruption charges.

A. Bentley Nettles, Executive Director
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission

As I reported on Friday, the FBI and Travis County District Attorney’s Office are investigating alleged corruption in the agency, and the TABC itself has already concluded that its chief of enforcement, Victor Kuykendoll, interfered in a criminal investigation to help his friends. Internal investigators also concluded that Chief Kuykendoll lied during the investigation in order to hide his relationship with an organized crime suspect.

In a 6:27 a.m. email, TABC executive director A. Bentley Nettles shrugged off these incidents as nothing more than “managerial misjudgment” by Chief Kuykendoll. Then Mr. Nettles turned his sights on retired TABC lieutenant Darryl Darnell, the man who has spent nearly three years exposing corruption at TABC.

Mr. Nettles alleged that Mr. Darnell had a “bone to pick” with Chief Kuykendoll, and that Mr. Darnell had been fired from TABC and escorted out of the building. In a response sent this afternoon, Mr. Darnell said he retired honorably after 25 years and was never escorted from TABC premises, but instead was the guest of honor at a retirement party hosted by the agency.

If Mr. Darnell is right (and I have no reason to doubt him), it looks like Mr. Nettles has set himself up for a defamation lawsuit. I’ve reprinted the full email exchange below, but a couple of things are worth highlighting:

  • According to Mr. Darnell, the TABC is fighting his open records request for the results of an employee survey, apparently because the results are, in the words of agency lawyers, too “embarrassing.”
  • In his email, Mr. Nettles wrote about refusing to meet with “Sherry and Ed.” He seems to be referring to his predecessor as executive director, Sherry Cook, and Cook’s deputy, Ed Swedberg. Ironically, Mrs. Cook was driven out of the agency in 2017 largely as a result of the corruption that Mr. Darnell exposed that year. In other words, Mr. Nettles arguably owes his job to none other than Darryl Darnell, the man whom he now accuses of having a vendetta against the agency.

In one of his emails to Mr. Nettles, Mr. Darnell suggested that Mr. Nettles had fallen under the malign influence of some lousy TABC employees who should have been purged along with Sherry Cook. Mr. Darnell does not mention any names, but allow me to propose one: Albert Rodriguez, the former commander of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s police academy who now serves as TABC’s director of training.

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