Deal’s proposed reform of state ethics commission needs more study
by Don McKee
April 09, 2014 12:00 AM | 1140 views | 5 5 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
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Gov. Nathan Deal has gone into damage control mode after a Fulton County jury ruled in favor of the former state ethics commission’s director whose salary was slashed when she pushed to investigate ethics complaints against Deal three years ago.

Deal has put forth a proposal to reform the ethics commission in the wake of the jury’s decision awarding $700,000 to Stacey Kalberman, the former director who said in her lawsuit her pay was cut 30 percent and her deputy director’s position eliminated when they tried to get approval from the commission for subpoenas to investigate Deal’s 2010 campaign reports and financial disclosures. Essentially, the jury bought into Kalberman’s contention the commission retaliated against her and her deputy for the investigation.

Deal was cleared of major violations by the ethics commission and agreed to pay $3,350 in administrative fees. He says he had no involvement in the Kalberman case. However, this case and two more behind could prove quite troublesome for Deal in this election year.

The current ethics commission director, Holly LaBerge, who succeeded Kalberman, testified someone in the governor’s office contacted her in May 2011 and asked if she would be interested in the director’s job. That happened before Kalberman’s salary was cut and a public posting of the job was made available. In court, LaBerge claimed she didn’t remember who in the governor’s office called her about the job. (Three of the five commissioners are appointed by the governor under existing law, and one member each is named by the House Speaker and the Senate Committee on Assignments.)

If the Kalberman case wasn’t enough to jolt Deal’s re-election campaign — and opponents already are firing away at him on that score — lawsuits are pending by two other former ethics commission staffers, including Kalberman’s deputy. Whether they go to trial or not, they will provide more ammunition for Deal’s campaign opponents. Ditto if they are settled without trial.

As for reforming the ethics commission, there’s no doubt it needs changing from the way it has operated in some important cases in the past. That brings us to Deal’s proposal. His plan calls for expanding the commission to include appointees from the judicial branch of state government in addition to the executive and legislative branches that have been doing the appointing.

Deal proposes to increase the membership from five to 12, with each branch of government appointing four of the commission members. Cases originating from one branch of government would be decided by commission members appointed by the other two branches. This, Deal said, would “assure that no public official’s campaign is investigated by commissioners appointed by his or her branch of government.”

Maybe there’s a fundamental problem with the government appointing ethics commission members in the first place. Maybe the Georgia Supreme Court, which is as close to nonpartisan as is available, should appoint all the commission members from a list of their own nominees or a list provided by non-government groups. Maybe this needs more study.

dmckee9613@aol.com
Comments
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Truth Now
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April 09, 2014
@Kevin Foley

None of what you say is true, but then secular progressives never let the truth stand in their way. Kevin, you need to stop parroting the Democrat party narrative and share something of substance.
Kevin Foley
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April 10, 2014
@ Truth Now (whoever you are but I'm guessing you're on Gov. Deal's campaign staff):

From the 2010 Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington "most corrupt" report:

Resigning from Congress to avoid an ethics investigation was only the beginning of Gov. Deal’s corrupt track record.

As a candidate for governor, one of Nathan Deal’s first acts was to hire his politically inexperienced daughter-in-law, paying her at least $40,000 over the course of the campaign and doling out payments to Southern Magnolia Capital, LLC, a company she co-founded. Her involvement with the company was not known until after Gov. Deal was elected. Between January 2011 and March 2013, the company received more than $240,000 from Gov. Deal’s campaign.

Additionally, the chairman of Georgia’s State Ethics Commission, appointed by Gov. Deal, appears to have obstructed ethics investigations into payments made by the Deal campaign. Two lawyers for the commission were forced out of their jobs for involvement with the case, and have since filed a wrongful termination suit against the commission.

◾ Elected in 2010, running for reelection in 2014; previously included in CREW’s 2009 Most Corrupt report when serving in the House of Representatives

◾Hired his daughter-in-law to work on his campaign and paid her company more than $240,000 between January 2011 and March 2013

◾Appointed a chairman of the state’s ethics commission who appears to have forced out two investigators involved in an investigation of Gov. Deal’s campaign

..
Come on now
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April 10, 2014
@Kevin Foley

There you go again, twisting and changing the truth to suit your agenda. Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics is Washington is an extreme fringe left wing fanatic group, and you quote THEM as a source? Deal was cleared of the trumped up charges with his daughter-in-law, which was nothing more than false malicious charges trumped up by political enemies. Then you cite the case of two Democrat left wing lawyers who bring a wrongful termination suit...err Foley, they were Democrat political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the party in power. Democrats do the same thing when they are in power...they fire all the Republican appointees. Then you cite a report from CREW, another far left extremist organization, hilarious! Hired his daughter-in-law? What are you doing, now repeating the same falsehoods? You are all over the real estate Kevin, and your blind leftist ideology to the secular progressive Democrats has badly clouded your judgement, but do try again, you are very entertaining.
Kevin Foley
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April 09, 2014
Is anybody surprised Deal is in trouble? He left Congress five minutes before he was hauled before the ethic committee and made the 10 most corrupt people on Capitol Hill in 2010?

The cover up is always worse than the crime.
Cover up
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April 10, 2014
@Foley

The cover up is worst than the crime? Really? Suppose we talk about Obamacare, Beghazi, IRS scandal, NSA spying, and a host of dozens of other Obama-Holder cover ups? I wonder how many U.S. Senate seats the Republicans will pick up in November? David Axelrod, a Democrat, says the Repubs will pick up at least ten Senate seats, if not more. I guess that is why Axelrod is now being demonized by the Democrats.
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