CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The state ABC Commission Thursday fined the liquor company Diageo $6,000 for paying for a lavish dinner in November for the Mecklenburg ABC board chairman and a group of staff members.

The commission also blamed the Mecklenburg board's senior management for coming up with the idea, saying they proposed the dinner, not Diageo.

The chairman of the Mecklenburg board, Parks Helms, and CEO Calvin McDougal resigned last month.

The ABC Commission is satisfied this dinner was not initiated by Diageo, said Jon Williams, chairman of the state ABC Commission. The local board has been held accountable by the resignations of the former board chairman and the former board CEO and by the repayment of most of the expense.

Helms, McDougal and other top staff repaid the board's share of the dinner tab, more than $9,000, originally paid by Diageo, which does millions of dollars in business with the Mecklenburg board. State Alcohol Law Enforcement agents last month issued a report saying Diageo and the Mecklenburg board broke state law against giving gifts to liquor retailers. The violations are civil offenses that the state commission adjudicates.

Williams emphasized that the fine was larger than usual for a first time offense in order to highlight the commission s commitment to hold the company accountable for their share of the event.

The issue of privatizing the state's alcohol sales has been picking up steam since this incident. NewsChannel 36 partnered with the Charlotte Observer as well as the News and Observer and WTVD in Raleigh for a statewide poll.

Out of 625 registered voters around the state, 49 percent want to abolish the ABC boards and have the stores run by private retailers. But 31 percent still want to maintain the current ABC board and system. Eight percent want the state to have more control and 12 percent were unsure.

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