Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter is renewing calls on the state Attorney General to investigate whistleblower complaints that involve Republican Governor Nathan Deal filed by ethics commission workers.
Watchdog group Common Cause Georgia is calling for the resignation or termination of Holly LaBerge, the executive secretary of the state ethics commission. William Perry with Common Cause says four whistleblower lawsuits are costing taxpayers $3 million. He says LaBerge was the one who decided to terminate two of the whistleblowers, and the leadership needs to be held accountable for retaliating against former ethics commission employees. “And these things, half of them happened under her watch. And a Fulton County jury believes that two others were removed in order to bring her in. So we think it’s just time to make a change.”
The state has settled whistle-blower complaints by three former ethics commission employees for a total of $1.8 million, potentially bringing to a close a controversial chapter in recent Georgia politics.
Jason Carter’s shot at becoming Georgia’s next Governor could hinge on the fallout from a trio of ethics cases involving Republican governor Nathan Deal. That’s according to experts on the heels of reports from the AJC and WSB that a former ethics commission employee is close to settling a whistleblower lawsuit against the state for $1 million.
The flow of bills seems unstoppable at the state Legislature as the session picks up steam. The House alone had a dozen bills on its calendar Thursday. But like Ebenezer Scrooge confronting the Ghost of Christmas Past, lawmakers this week are also dealing with a bill they passed last year. On Tuesday, lawmakers attended a joint Q&A session to straighten out the confusion. And then on Thursday, they scheduled a meeting to discuss a part of the bill that exempts caucuses (except it’s not clear what a caucus is).
Did you know that there’s an election this year in Georgia? For Governor? The state Senate staged a piece of theater Friday that served as a reminder, lest you forget. But first, a word about what’s on the roster for this week. A lot! Lawmakers will turn their attention this week to the 2015 budget. Passing a balanced budget is the only thing lawmakers are constitutionally obligated to do.
A normally a quick and controversy free Friday at the Capitol was instead filled with fireworks as members of the Senate tried to make changes to a bill dealing with the state ethics commission. What started as a so–called "simple bill" became a political grudge match as Senate Democrats tried to make changes to the state's ethics policies. The bill clarified a provision lawmakers passed last year, which exempts local level politicians from reporting campaign contributions to the state if they total less than $2,500 dollars.
State lawmakers will be back at the Capitol in two weeks to start the 2014 General Assembly session and advocates have already been working on their legislative agendas. “We are also expecting it to be a very fast session—gavel in, gavel out—and that just means we have to be ready to hit the ground running,” said Liz Coyle, deputy director of Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy group.
The Whistleblower lawsuit that sparked an investigation into Governor Nathan Deal's 2010 campaign may take years to resolve. Federal authorities are looking into allegations made by two former employees of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. The pair is currently suing the state under the Georgia Whistleblower Act. They claim the commission forced them out after they tried to look into ethics allegations involving the Deal campaign. Reports Wednesday revealed that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed a handful people to appear next month, none of whom work in the Governor’s Office.
Gov. Nathan Deal suspended state Senator Don Balfour on Wednesday following his criminal indictment in September. Deal’s decision came at the recommendation of three fellow Republicans he appointed to sift through the charges. Balfour, a Snellville Republican, faces charges he illegally claimed reimbursements when he wasn't on official state duty. In a hearing Wednesday, Balfour’s attorney, Ken Hodges, argued the expense report errors were inadvertent. And he said a state Senate ethics committee has already determined just that.