State’s cost in ethics lawsuit climbs to $1.15 million

Posted: 5:56 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, 2014 By Aaron Gould Sheinin The Atlanta Journal-…

Georgia (May 22, 2014)Posted: 5:56 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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By Aaron Gould Sheinin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Stacey Kalberman’s claim that she was forced from her job as head of the state ethics commission will cost the state a total of $1.15 million, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

 

 

A Fulton County jury in April ruled that Kalberman was pushed out for investigating Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign for governor and ordered the state to pay her $700,000 plus court costs and legal fees. The agreement signed Wednesday shows the total cost for the first time.

 

The final amount is nearly equal to the commission’s $1.35 million annual budget and will be paid by the Department of Administrative Services through its self-funded insurance program.

Under the terms, Kalberman is to receive $725,111.79, and the law firm Thrasher Liss & Smith will be paid $424,881.21.

Kalberman and her top deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, were investigating a series of complaints against Deal’s campaign and in May 2011 presented draft subpoenas for records from Deal’s campaign and others. Just weeks later, the subpoenas remained unsigned and Kalberman was told her salary would be cut deeply and Streicker’s job eliminated. …

The Kalberman case is one of three involving the commission and its Deal investigation that could be decided in the next several months — all before November’s election when Deal will next face voters.

Streicker’s whistleblower lawsuit is scheduled for trial in Fulton County in June. Former commission media specialist John Hair’s whistleblower case is tentatively scheduled for October.

Hair was hired by current commission director Holly LaBerge, who took over after Kalberman’s departure. Hair claims LaBerge ordered him to alter and remove documents from the Deal investigative file and that he was fired when he refused.

LaBerge has denied the allegations. 

Steve Anthony, who lectures on state politics at Georgia State University and served as chief of staff to longtime House Speaker Tom Murphy, said these cases will continue to give Deal heartburn if the results are similar.

“It will cause problems on a variety of fronts,” Anthony said. “It will make him have to respond to that and, space and time being what it is, it means he can’t respond to something else.”

It will also draw voters’ attention away from Deal’s own message and gives ammunition to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jason Carter. …

Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint, a former GOP activist, agreed.

The cases “are like a storm cloud hanging over the Deal administration and the governor’s campaign,” Swint said. “The fact that more court action involving the state ethics commission and its gross mismanagement over the last three years is coming soon has to be unwelcome news to the governor’s re-election team.”

 

 


 

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