Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from TABC.
Sherry Cook, the embattled executive director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, is stepping down from her post amid a series of spending controversies at the agency.
In a Tweet early Monday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott welcomed what his office called Cook's "resignation.''
"It's time to clean house from regulators not spending taxpayer money wisely," the governor said in his tweet. "This is a good start."
Less than an hour later, in a news release sent to reporters, TABC characterized Cook's departure as a retirement. The statements said nothing about reports of top TABC brass spending thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to attend conferences largely funded by the alcohol industry.
Under the headline "TABC Announces Change to Executive Leadership," the agency said Cook "will retire from her position May 23 following more than 40 years of public service to the people of Texas." The agency said a replacement would be discussed at the May 23 meeting of the three-member commission that oversees TABC.
The move comes after The Texas Tribune reported that Cook and others at the agency had been jet-setting around the country to attend conferences at swanky resorts from Florida to Hawaii.
It also comes after Cook and other top TABC honchos got a brutal grilling last week before the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics about the spending controversies and the agency’s failure to produce accurate reports about the state-owned vehicles the top brass has been driving.
John Wittman, a spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott — who appoints the commissioners who oversee the TABC — said earlier Monday that Cook’s departure would help the agency get back on solid footing.
“It became clear that action needed to be taken in order to restore trust in the agency,” Wittman said. “And Ms. Cook’s resignation is the first step in that process.”
Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, who played griller-in-chief last Thursday as chairwoman of the panel that pressed Cook for answers, said Monday she had not been briefed about the TABC director’s future. But she welcomed a shakeup at the top of TABC — extending beyond Cook.
“I agree with the governor’s office that it is a good first step in restoring confidence in the agency,” Davis said. “I think it was more than just the executive director that was traveling on taxpayer dollars to Hawaii. Based on the testimony from last Thursday, how can Texans have confidence in the TABC with the continued employment of any of the witnesses that were called?”
During the hearing, Cook — who took the job in 2012 — acknowledged that her agency had misused state resources by creating a now-infamous flyer depicting the top brass guzzling or holding Lone Star beer while jetting off to a California meeting of the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators.
Read related coverage:
- Texas alcohol regulators know how to party: records show they've spent tens of thousands of dollars to travel to swanky resorts where liquor flows and industry lobbyists abound.
- For more than three hours, top TABC officials were grilled by House members for misusing state resources, taking trips to Hawaii on the taxpayers’ dime, mixing vacation with state duties, misreporting who has been assigned which state-owned vehicles, and cozying up to the very industry they’re supposed to be regulating.