By CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY, Associated Press
Key details of who will handle an outside investigation into the state ethics commission are close to being finalized, the panel’s chairman said Monday.
It’s been three weeks since the board of the ethics commission voted to request a special assistant attorney general be appointed to look into circumstances surrounding two lawsuits against the agency as well as unspecified personnel issues.
The commission has been sued by its former executive secretary and her deputy, who claim retaliation for work investigating ethics complaints filed against Gov. Nathan Deal. Those lawsuits are pending in Fulton County Superior Court.
Commission Chairman Kevin Abernethy said in a telephone interview that his fellow commissioners have vetted a number of different options and are close to identifying the appropriate people to run the investigation.
“We have spent considerable time and hours thinking through — as we would any investigation — as to the best way we would handle it,” Abernethy said.
He declined to answer questions about the scope of the inquiry, saying he wants the investigation to remain independent.
Eventually, Deal agreed to pay $3,350 in administrative fees to settle the ethics complaints, which centered on his personal financial and campaign finance reports.
Among those called to provide depositions in the two pending lawsuits are current commission Executive Secretary Holly LaBerge and Staff Attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein, who was hired by LaBerge. In recent weeks, Murray-Obertein has aired concerns about LaBerge, saying LaBerge has on more than one occasion said the governor “owes her” for taking care of his ethics complaints.
That prompted a scathing response from Deal, who said he doesn’t know LaBerge and doesn’t owe her anything. LaBerge’s attorney has denied the claims against her, saying she treated the complaints in a fair and impartial way.
Meanwhile, an attorney for Murray-Obertein has said she’s been contacted several times by the FBI, although it’s not clear whether the questions relate to any active investigation. The FBI has declined comment.
Follow Christina Almeida Cassidy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP—Christina .