Ethics Commission Chief Holly LaBerge is suddenly talking. A lot. She’s taped an interview with Fox5’s Dale Russell that began promoting the interview last night. It will air tonight at 10. Now the AJC has a print version and a memo LaBerge claims she wrote after texting and talking with Governor Deal’s staff while she was on vacation.
While on vacation in July 2012, state ethics commission director Holly LaBerge says she received a call from Ryan Teague, Deal chief counsel, and texts from chief of staff Chris Riley.
LaBerge claims Teague said, “It was not in the agency’s best interest for these cases to go to a hearing … nor was it in their best political interest either.”
Days later, the commission voted during a public hearing to dismiss the major complaints against Deal, who agreed to pay $3,350 in fees for technical defects to his campaign disclosures. The complaints included claims Deal improperly paid for use of a private aircraft for campaign travel and questioned his use of campaign funds to pay legal fees during his 2010 campaign.
Y’all feel free to talk about the timing, what this does to the Governor’s race, and all that good stuff in the comments. It’s all fair game.
I’m still trying to figure out where this memo and these claims were when LaBerge testified in Stacy Kalberman’s trial. You know, the one that resulted in a verdict and subsequent settlements that cost Georgia taxpayers millions. During her testimony, LaBerge acted like she couldn’t even remember who worked for the Governor. Now that checks are being written to everyone that’s ever worked for the commission, LaBerge’s memory seems…different.
There’s something very wrong here. I’ve written about that for years. But her own memo indicates she is trying to work on a settlement with the Governor’s staff. She seems more annoyed that they decided to settle this while she’s on vacation (when she said herself the next Monday morning it’s “out of her hands”) and she’s arguing over the difference between a $5K fine and a $1,500 fine.
Hyperbole will win the day. But my initial questions to figure this out are 1) Should this memo that surfaced today been part of discovery for Kalberman, Strieker, or other lawyers with clients suing the commission, and 2) Does what LaBerge told Russell and others for this story match what she said on the witness stand during Kalberman’s trial.
In the mean time, I’ll ask again can we PLEASE scrap this commission completely and start over with something that is independent and will have the trust of Georgians. Because this one…is not reparable.