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Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - 10:37am

Top Officials Leave Ethics Agency

The top two people in charge at the state’s ethics agency are on their way out. The board of the state ethics commission says it’s restructuring to save money. Critics say it’s the latest move to dis-empower the commission.

Executive secretary Stacey Kalberman and her deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, are the ethics commission’s only staff lawyers.

Patrick Millsaps, Chairman of the State Ethics Commission Board, says Kalberman refused a $35,000 pay cut and Streiker’s position was eliminated.

"This was a business decision based on the numbers to give us some more room within our budget to hire some people that we desperately needed kind of at the lower to mid levels," says Millsaps.

William Perry with the government watchdog group Common Cause says losing Kalberman’s and Streicker’s legal expertise weakens the agency’s ability to oversee campaign funding and spending of elected officials and lobbyists.

He adds that lawmakers have already stripped the ethics commission’s power to interpret ethics law, and recently expanded its responsibilities without funding them.

"It just kind of reflects a larger problem. There’s been a gradual chipping away of the enforcement authority of the ethics commission and so it brings into question why do we even have these ethics laws if the legislature is not going to be serious about enforcement," says Perry.

The board will officially vote on the decision by the end of this week.