Blog — Ethics
In last year’s Worst Governors report, CREW outlined how Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA) and his allies forced out the executive secretary of the state ethics commission in an effort to thwart a detailed investigation of his campaign’s misconduct. Stacey Kalberman, the former executive secretary, sued, alleging commissioners had retaliated against her over the Deal investigation. Last Friday, a Georgia jury found in favor of Ms. Kalberman and ordered the state to pay her $700,000 in damages in addition to awarding her legal fees and back pay, a verdict that could cost taxpayers more than a million dollars.
The price tag is particularly ironic given Ms. Kalberman and her deputy were supposedly forced out due to budget cuts, an explanation the jury found not credible. As one juror noted, “If they had taken 10 percent pay cuts across the board, that might have been something… But they got rid of the two attorneys investigating Nathan Deal.” Gov. Deal maintains his ethics problems were “resolved about two years ago,” but the outcome of this lawsuit clearly demonstrates that was achieved through backroom shenanigans designed to obstruct the investigation.
While this verdict clears up what happened on the state level, it leaves unresolved why the Department of Justice (DOJ) refused to prosecute Gov. Deal. Documents obtained by CREW through a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) show that three years ago, the U.S. Attorney’s office and FBI contacted the Georgia Ethics Commission to express great interest in the commission’s findings. CREW sought from DOJ communications between DOJ and the state ethics commission concerning potential violations of federal or state law by Gov. Deal; when DOJ refused to produce any documents, CREW sued.
Last week, new evidence came to light showing Gov. Deal’s chief of staff, Chris Riley, used his state e-mail account to help plot press strategy for the buyer of Gov. Deal’s salvage business. Similar behavior while in Congress resulted in an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, Gov. Deal’s appearance in our 2009 Most Corrupt Report, and his ultimate resignation from Congress. With Gov. Deal and his cronies again up to their old tricks, it’s clear that Georgia’s citizens need a full, independent investigation of his actions.
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