State News

October 5, 2013

Lawyer: Ethics commissioner wanted case dropped

The chairman of Georgia’s ethics commission pressured the commission’s attorney to settle complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal, the attorney said in an affidavit.

Attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein said in the affidavit filed Friday that Chairman Kevin Abernethy called her several times ahead of a July 23, 2012, meeting to discuss the cases against Deal, who was accused of misusing campaign funds during the 2010 election. Abernethy denies those accusations.

“Commissioner Abernethy attempted in each phone conversation to pressure me into settling the complaint,” Murray-Obertein said in the affidavit obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “In fact, Commissioner Abernethy informed me that the commissioners would vote to dismiss the complaints (and that I should settle the complaints because there was no point in having hearings).”

Murray-Obertein made the accusation in an affidavit filed in a lawsuit brought by the commission’s former deputy director, Sherilyn Streicker.

Abernethy said there is no truth in the accusations made by Murray-Obertein.

“I deny everything that is being said,” Abernethy told the newspaper. “I resent it. It’s false.”

He noted that Murray-Obertein agreed with a commission decision to dismiss a complaint focused on how Deal’s campaign paid for airfare on a plane his company partly owned. Murray-Obertein called the commission’s investigation “very thorough,” according to a video recording of the meeting.

“I actually do not object to the motion to dismiss this particular complaint,” she said.

However, Murray-Obertein objected at that meeting to dismissing a separate complaint focusing on Deal’s use of state campaign funds to pay for his defense in a congressional probe.

Deal was cleared of major charges and paid $3,350 in administrative fees for “technical defects” to his campaign reports. Murray-Obertein had recommended $70,000 in fines.

The commission’s former executive director, Stacey Kalberman, and her deputy, Streicker, filed lawsuits last year after the ethics commission decided to slash Kalberman’s salary by about 30 percent and eliminate Streicker’s position. At the time, Kalberman and Streicker were seeking approval from commissioners to issue subpoenas in the Deal investigation. Kalberman ultimately resigned.

Among those called to provide depositions in the two pending lawsuits are current commission Executive Secretary Holly LaBerge. LaBerge said in sworn statements that she received a phone call from the governor’s office asking whether she was interested in the job before the job was open. The commission is meant to be an independent watchdog agency overseeing campaign finance and lobbying and is charged with hiring its own chief.

Murray-Obertein said in earlier sworn statements that LaBerge has on more than one occasion said the governor “owes her” for taking care of his ethics complaints. Deal has told reporters that he doesn’t know LaBerge and that he doesn’t owe her anything.

 

1
Text Only
State News
  • One charged in death of Dalton woman, another sought

    A Dalton woman found dead in Calhoun earlier this month is believed to have died of a drug overdose after two Calhoun residents abandoned her in a car behind the VFW on East Line Street, Lt. Tony Pyle with the Calhoun Police Department said Wednesday afternoon.

    June 18, 2014

  • Guard shot at FedEx center to undergo 14th surgery

    A security guard critically wounded when a gunman went on a rampage at a FedEx facility is scheduled to undergo his 14th operation Tuesday.

    May 27, 2014

  • Arson ruled out as cause of chemical plant fire

    Police say investigators have been able to rule out arson or foul play as the cause of a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles.

    May 27, 2014

  • Teen tied to shopping cart drowns in lake

    Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials say a teen has died after being tied to a shopping cart and pushed into Lake Allatoona.

    May 25, 2014

  • Underground tattoo artists frustrate officials

    The work of tattoo artists whose living rooms double as body art studios might come cheap, but experts say the unsterile -- and illegal -- work environments could leave clients in pain long after the initial sting of the needle subsides.

    May 25, 2014

  • No runoff lets Republicans focus on Rep. Barrow

    While Georgia Republicans have to wait until July to settle runoff races for the U.S. Senate and three open House seats, one of the biggest GOP victories in the primary elections last week went to Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen.

    May 25, 2014

  • Audit probes juvenile justice turnover rate

    A state audit cites low pay, long hours and management concerns as reasons for a relatively high turnover rate at the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

    May 25, 2014

  • Atlanta schools ex-tech director to be sentenced

    After his relationship with the superintendent of Atlanta’s school system soured, a former technology director for the district set up a kickback scheme to pad his pockets before he left his job, according to court documents.

    May 24, 2014

  • Georgia veteran, 92, honored at surprise ceremony

    Family and friends surprised a 92-year-old World War II veteran from Georgia on Memorial Day by honoring him and presenting him with the World War II Victory Medal.

    May 24, 2014

  • Police: Massive chemical plant fire extinguished

    Authorities say a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles has been extinguished.

    May 24, 2014