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DOT Secretary defends drunk-driving task force

MADISON, Wis (WSAU-Wheeler News) State Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb disputes a claim that the Tavern League has had too much influence on a task force aimed at finding ways to curb drunk driving. That's what four of the group's 38 members said yesterday when they resigned.

The panel was formed last year to create a federally-required plan to reduce impaired driving. 26-members endorsed the plan recently, while 12 others did not vote.

Health First-Wisconsin director Maureen Busalacchi, Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project coordinator Julia Sherman, and doctors Stephen Hargarten and Richard Brown submitted their resignations in a letter. They said the Tavern League's participation posed a conflict of interest -- the plan's ideas are generally ineffective -- and the four members felt their participation "lends credibility to a hollow process."

D-O-T leader Gottlieb said it was unfortunate the four members quit. He said he wants to meet with them, in the hopes they would reconsider. Gottlieb said the Tavern League's participation is appropriate because it runs the state's "Safe Ride" program for bar customers who've had one too many. He said the task force had input from a host of groups -- and he's open to having others participate in changing Wisconsin's drinking culture.

Tavern League director Pete Madland denied his group posed a conflict, and he was surprised about the resignations.