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August 30. 2013 10:19AM

Liquor Commission CFO tapped for post with LGC

CONCORD _ The outgoing chief financial officer of the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission has been named to the same post at embattled Health Trust, Inc., formerly the New Hampshire Local Government Center.

George Tsiopras of Bow has been CFO at the liquor commission since 2001. He previously was audit manager and financial auditor for the state Legislative Budget Assistant’s Office.

Tsiopras, whose salary will be about $131,500, will succeed Sandal Keeffe, who is retiring as chief financial offer after 23 years with the LGC and its risk pools.
Health Trust, Inc., manages health and other insurance plans for cities and school districts across the state. It is currently under an order from a state hearing officer to repay cities and towns $50 million. The hearing officer concluded the quasi-public group kept more in reserves than it needed.

The LGC appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the state Supreme Court, but at the same time is complying with the order and this week sent $33.2 million in checks for excess reserves in the health trust risk pool went out to member communities.
The hearing officer also said the organization was incoporated illegally as nonprofit limited liability companies under Delaware law. Nonprofits cannot be LLCs under New Hampshire law.

On Sept. 1, the LGC was restructured into separate entities, Health Trust and Property-Liability Trust, which operates the risk pools, and the New Hampshire Municipal Association, which will focus on legislative advocacy, legal advisory services, training programs, and educational publications for its member communities.

The naming of Tsiopras as chief financial officer came two weeks after state Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, was named executive director of the LGC and its risk pools.

Bragdon is officially stepping down as Senate President next week but will remain a state senator.

Health Trust said in a statement Tsiopras “has extensive experience directing financial operations, safeguarding assets and setting appropriate financial controls for the organizations within which he has worked.”

A certified public accountant, Tsiopras has a Masters of Business Administratin (MBA) in finance and information techology  from Southern New Hampshire University. His undergraduate degree in business administration is from the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business and Economics.

Bragdon said Tsiopras will be “a new set of eyes coming in, which is always good.

“Most of the issues that have been faced were the result of organization issues that were made and there was never any impropriety with the books. So he is coming into a system that is functioning well witht he proper controls on the financial side.”

At the liquor commission, Tsiopras oversaw financial operations as the commission’s sales steadily increased from $310 million in fiscal 2001 to a record $603 million in fiscal 2013.

But also during his tenure, the liquor commission faced a controversy involving about $100,000 in wine that had reportedly been “lost” during a move of a retail outlet from one location to another in Portsmouth in 2011.

In December 2012, the state Attorney General’s Office concluded that no wine was ever missing or stolen during the move, but the office’s report did cite accounting and inventory mistakes.

According to the Attorney General, a speadsheet created during the move was mistaken for actual documentation of store inventory. What had been thought to be 2,254 wine bottles of excess inventory not included in the plan for the new store became less than 200 bottles by the end of the move, the Attorney General’s report said.

Those bottles were sold, transferred to to other stores or remain in storage at the store, according to the report.

“A careful review of Liquor Commission inventory records dispels this misunderstanding and does not reveal any unaccounted-for win ever present at the store in the first place,” the report said, concluding there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Then-Gov. John Lynch said at the time he was confident the accounting and inventory problems outlined by the Attorney General were isolated rather than “structural, across-the-board.”

Bragdon said that during Tsiopras’ tenure at the liquor commission, “They implemented a lot of controls and new technology. His duties here will include oversight of information technology as well as finance.”

Tsiopras and liquor commission chairman Joseph Mollica did not return Union Leader calls seeking comment for this report.

In a Health Trust statement, LGC chairman Tom Enright expressed gratitude to Keeffe for her years of service.

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