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Governor Deal Destroys Myth of 'Reformer' GOP Governors Yet Again

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Governor Nathan Deal is already facing a bruising week ahead, after a weekend of scathing headlines.  Late Friday, the jury ruled in favor of Stacey Kalberman, former director of the state ethics commission, after she was pushed out of her job for investigating Governor Deal’s 2010 campaign.  But Deal’s troubles are far from over as there is still an ongoing federal grand jury inquiry and accusations that the governor used his official taxpayer-paid staff to advance his private business dealings.
Governor Deal joins fellow scandal-scarred Republicans governors Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Rick Scott, who have helped destroy the myth that Republican governors are “reformers” who represent the future of the national party.
Here is background on Friday’s verdict in the Governor Deal ethics investigation:
HEADLINE: Jury Rules in Favor of Ex-Ethics Chief; Awards $700,000 Judgment. “Stacey Kalberman was unfairly forced from office as retribution for investigating Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign, a Fulton County jury ruled Friday. The jury, after deliberating 2 1/2 hours ordered the state to pay the former ethics commission director $700,000… Kalberman’s attorneys worked all week to show that the commission’s decision in June 2011 to cut her salary by $35,000 and to eliminate Streicker’s job were a response to the pair’s desire to issue subpoenas for records in the investigation.” [Atlanta Journal Constitution, 4/4/14]
Ethics Investigation into Deal Campaign Led to Staff Departure on Ethics Commission. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported of Georgia’s ethics commission top administrator, Stacey “Kalberman left amid a struggle over her pay, which the commissioners wanted to reduce by a third. The threatened cut came as Kalberman was investigating the campaign finances of Gov. Nathan Deal. When Kalberman left, the commission also fired [Kalberman’s deputy Sherilyn] Streicker and eliminated her position. Both have sued the state, and the commissioners and Deal’s office have denied their departures were related to the investigation.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/16/12]

  • Deal Recruited New Head of Commission as Investigation was Ongoing. “Deal did not dispute the allegation that his office recruited [Holly] LaBerge to lead the ethics commission even as it was investigating him. The governor said his office is frequently involved in recruiting agency heads, although he could not confirm LaBerge’s sworn testimony that the governor’s staff asked her whether she would be interested in the job two months before it became open.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/20/13]

Testimonies Indicated Commission Head LaBerge Destroyed Documents on Deal Aides in Probe. “Former Ethics Commission director, Stacey Kalberman, and one of her deputies have sued the state, saying they were forced out of the agency for leading an investigation into Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign. The commission’s current director, Holly LaBerge, is accused of intervening in the investigation. Current and former staffers have testified that LaBerge ordered the removal of documents from the case file and met with top Deal aides while the probe was ongoing.” [Associated Press, 9/22/13]

  • LaBerge Said She Made Complaint “Go Away.” “According to the testimony, LaBerge said Deal ‘owed her one’ after she claimed to have made ethics complaints against him ‘go away.’” [Associated Press, 9/22/13]

LaBerge and Four Other Ethics Commission Staff Subpoenaed By FBI. “The FBI’s investigation into the state ethics commission took a step forward… when a federal grand jury subpoenaed five people at the center of the commission’s investigation into Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign. Commission attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she and executive director Holly LaBerge were subpoenaed in the agency’s office… Another person with knowledge of the case, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation, said former commission executive director Stacey Kalberman and her top deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, were also subpoenaed for documents related to the Deal case.… The AJC reported in September that current and former commission employees have alleged in sworn testimony that LaBerge ordered documents removed from the Deal file.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/12/13]
HEADLINE: Governor’s Staff Put Finishing Touch on Deal’s Land Sale. “Gov. Nathan Deal’s office got involved in a business sale last year that was worth millions to the governor. But the governor’s office says the role was minor and appropriate… the sale was worth $2.9 million to the Governor in cash… Records show that in May of 2013, the sale attracted the attention of Chris Riley, Gov. Deal’s chief of staff. Riley sent two emails to the buyer and the Governor’s attorney, framing the public announcement of the sale of what had been a controversial piece of property… In one email, Riley shapes a press release about the sale to Copart, a Texas-based company by saying he wants the press release to ‘remove Gainesville as much as possible and make it appear to be more metro Atlanta.’” [WXIA 11, 4/3/14]