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Friday, June 17, 2011 - 7:32am

Top Ethics Staffer Resigns

The top staffer of the state ethics commission is resigning after the panel voted to slash her salary.

The five-member panel on Friday voted to cut Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman's salary to no more than $85,000 and eliminate the No. 2 position at the agency, which deals with campaign finance complaints.

Kalberman says she will stay until a replacement is found.

Members of the commission praised Kalberman's work, but said they are facing a budget shortfall and need to cut costs.

The action comes after a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Kalberman had raised questions about the timing of the salary cut and efforts to advance the agency's investigation into a complaint against Gov. Nathan Deal.

Members of the commission declined to comment on the investigations. At the regular commission meeting Friday morning, Commission Chairman Patrick Millsaps said the personnel moves were purely a business decision, and will ease the fiscal crunch a bit.

“I would just like to point out that these two changes will free up $40,000 to $50,000 in the budget…that we will assign a priority to later on,” he said.

Watchdog groups dismiss the idea that the commission proposed the personnel moves because of budget constraints.

William Perry of Common Cause Georgia said staff cuts will further erode the commission’s ability to investigate ethics violations.

“The problem with the budget decision made today is, it impedes current investigations," he said after the meeting. "When you reduce staff and have basically stalled the process, then we’re not going to get answers to the questions we need and these cases won’t get resolved because they’ve removed the people who need to do these investigations.”

Kalberman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Gov. Deal could not be reached for comment.