Alan Steen, who guided TABC through Rainbow Lounge aftermath, to retire from agency in June

Alan Steen

Administrator Alan Steen, who guided the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission through the aftermath of the Rainbow Lounge raid, is retiring from TABC effective June 1, according to a press release.

Steen famously apologized to the LGBT community after the raid, which TABC conducted with the Fort Worth Police Department. Three TABC officers involved in the raid were later fired, and the agency settled with Rainbow Lounge patrons who were injured. TABC also became the first state agency to conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training for all employees, and assigned a liaison to the LGBT community.

“I wanted to leave the agency when it was right for me personally and when I felt the agency was in the best shape of its existence,” Steen said in the release. “I believe that time is now. I know the dedicated employees of TABC will continue to progress and move forward. … I’d like to acknowledge the board that hired me. They wanted change for the agency and took a chance on someone who had no alcoholic beverage industry experience and who wasn’t a peace officer. I also want to thank the current board. During tough times, they stood by me, pushing the agency to cultivate a professional image, business-friendly practices, and a common sense approach.”

According to the press release, Steen has accepted the position of executive director of the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA), which is based in Fort Worth and has more than 20,000 members around the world. Steen is a native of Granbury. An interim head for TABC has not been named.

—  John Wright

TABC clears agents of excessive force, says they didn't target Rainbow Lounge

Agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission didn’t target the Rainbow Lounge because it was a gay bar and didn’t use excessive force against three patrons who were arrested during the raid, including one who was seriously injured, according to a report that will be released by the state agency later today.

The agents, Christopher Aller and Jason Chapman, were fired along with their supervisor in August based on the findings of TABC’s first investigation into the June 28 raid, which dealt with policy violations. However, TABC’s second and final investigation clears Aller and Chapman of allegations that they targeted the bar and used excessive force against patrons Chad Gibson, Jose Macias and George Armstrong. Gibson was hospitalized for a week following the raid with a head injury.

“Although the evidence did not show that our agents targeted the bar or used excessive force, it does not take away from the fact that the agents violated several policies that night,” TABC Administrator Alan Steen said. “I want to take another opportunity to say that this is not how we treat people, and we have been looking at this from every angle to find ways to make sure it does not happen again.”

I’m told that TABC’s full 74-page use of force report, which I haven’t seen, will be available later today online, and we’ll post the link as soon as it’s available. You can read the full press release about the report, which was sent out first thing this morning, after the jump. For more coverage, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  John Wright

Is TABC really sorry for the Rainbow Lounge, or is Rick Perry just trolling for gay votes?

Gov. Rick Perry
Gov. Rick Perry

Over in the comments to this story from last week’s Voice, one F.S. Enriquez espouses the theory that TABC Administrator Alan Steen has only been so profusely apologetic for the Rainbow Lounge raid because the man who appoints his bosses, Gov. Rick Perry, is up for re-election next year and wants the gay vote. It seems a little far-fetched, given that most LGBT people would seem more likely to support Perry’s opponent in the Republican Primary, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, or one of the Democrats. But Enriquez’s theory makes a little more sense in light of  this story from The Dallas Morning News, which reveals that the chairman of the TABC, Perry appointee José Cuevas, has been soliciting campaign contributions for the governor from owners of the same restaurants and bars that the agency regulates. Not surprisingly, Perry spokesman Mark Miner denies that this represents any conflict of interest, but The DMN notes that Perry himself once criticized an opponent for a similar practice:

Campaign records show that Perry has received more than $400,000 from restaurant interests since he became governor in 2000. In addition, he has raised nearly $800,000 from beer and liquor interests regulated by the TABC.

As a candidate seeking statewide office for the first time in 1990, Perry called for an investigation of his Democratic opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, because a grain and seed regulator under Hightower was soliciting campaign contributions from those he regulated.

Perry’s campaign manager denounced “the shakedown of people regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture” and said that “this kind of political strong-arming is reprehensible.”

—  John Wright

It's safe to say TABC will be avoiding gay bars at all costs on June 28 from now on

After the Rainbow Lounge raid, the reminder may not be needed for years to come — perhaps not until the 50th anniversary in 2019. But the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is now distributing a daily e-mail to supervisors that lists important dates in history, including the June 28 anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. TABC Administrator Alan Steen told Dallas Voice last week that he’s convinced neither his agents nor Fort Worth police officers knew it was the 40th anniversary of Stonewall when they went into the Rainbow Lounge on June 28.

“It’s embarrassing to say, but we had no clue, and I truly believe Fort Worth had no clue,” Steen said. “We do have a mechanism in place now to have a clue.”

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said this week the mechanism Steen was referring to is a Texas Homeland Security Briefing sent out by the Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Information Analysis. It’s unclear whether DPS’s e-mail briefing already included the Stonewall anniversary or whether it was added following the Rainbow Lounge raid, but in any case the briefing wasn’t being used by TABC until now, Beck said.

There’s no word on whether the Fort Worth Police Department plans to implement a similar reminder.

—  John Wright