June 3, 2014

Don’t weaken state ethics laws

Stacey Kalberman won a whistleblower lawsuit against the state ethics commission earlier this year. Kalberman, the commission’s former executive director, sued after she claimed she was forced from her position after investigating Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign.

In the end, a jury ruled in her favor to the tune of $700,000. Deal said he was concerned that a recent state Supreme Court ruling broadened the definition of whistleblower and granted status to government employees charged with investigating state agencies and employees. An aide to the governor said one possibility could be excluding a range of state employees from bringing such complaints.

So the governor and those in his office do not like that state employees who are trying to do their job and investigate people and agencies are protected under the whistleblower statute. It is hard to imagine the governor believes these employees should be fair game for individuals in power who do not like their investigation and seek retribution. If the recent judgment against the state ethics office does not highlight what can happen without the protection, we are not sure what can.

The idea of weakening ethics laws is exactly the type of thinking this state does not need. Without integrity and ethics, we have nothing. Weakening any of our ethics laws is one of the worst ideas any leader could have. It hints at their need to be able to cover something up or shut someone down when it hits too close to home. We hope this was just a snap reaction to the state Supreme Court ruling and cooler, more ethical heads will prevail.

Georgia is better than this.

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