LaBerge Is Talking

July 14, 2014 17:01 pm

by Charlie · 14 comments

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.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

BryanLong July 14, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Charlie, Check the story on WSB.

The Office of the Attorney General provided the memo to WSB, and Ms. LaBerge’s lawyer says that the Attorney General urged her not to talk about the memo during her testimony. So, it sounds as though this cover up extends beyond the Office of the Governor and includes the Attorney General as well.

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/memo-gov-deals-staff-interfered-ethics-case/ngffw/

xdog July 14, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Yeah, that’s a different LaBerge than the one who testified earlier this year. I thought then she was a stooge. Now we’re seeing the stooge who’s anticipating indictments. I doubt she’ll be Deal’s friend much longer.

If Carter can get traction on other issues–jobs, education, health, transportation– and can tap into the vote south of the gnat line, he can pound Deal with his ethical lapses but it doesn’t appear there’s enough meat so far to make a decent meal. After all, people knew about Deal when they elected him the first time. His no-bid contracts, use of government time/money for personal gain, and leaning on state auditors didn’t matter then and squeezing the commission for his own gain won’t make a difference now.

bird July 14, 2014 at 5:51 pm

xdog is right. She’s retained a lawyer, and one has to think it’s because she’s either anticipating federal indictments or wants to sue the State. There’s going to be more to this story.

Three Jack July 14, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Here’s a bit more information on why she chose to go public now – http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2014/07/14/why-holly-laberge-went-public/

Last paragraph sums it up in the full letter.

South Fulton Guy July 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Folks knew what they were dealing with when then chose Nathan Deal over Karen Handel in the gubernatorial primary. They chose the good old boy with the backing of the congressional establishment instead of Handel who had the audacity to campaign on ethics. Is it really now shocking that there is a trail of ethical challenges with our governor? You reap what you sow or vote for…

xdog July 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Actually, folks paying any attention at all knew what they were buying into when they chose Deal over Barnes. These latest revelations didn’t come out of the blue.

South Fulton Guy July 14, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Actually folks knew what they were buying into when they chose Nathan Deal over Karen Handel in the gubernatorial primary.

xdog July 14, 2014 at 8:06 pm

You know, I think I slipped into an alternative world where Deal faced Barnes before dispatching Handel. Sorry for the disturbance. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go check my meds.

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 14, 2014 at 6:48 pm

This, uh, can’t be good.

debbie0040 July 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm

“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.”

+1,000,000

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 14, 2014 at 10:06 pm

+10,000,000….as in 10 million Georgians

Chris Huttman July 14, 2014 at 11:15 pm

I’m swearing off windows for my house if Nathan Deal hits a baseball through them. They just WONT WORK ANYMORE!!!!! It’s the window’s fault.

Will Durant July 14, 2014 at 10:34 pm

While we’re at it why not just scrap the idea of a Governor effectively being able to hire and fire state employees at every level? Regardless of whether they are using six degrees of separation or not is anyone fooled with Chip Rogers’ gig at GPB or various other politicos getting 6 figure positions at the taxpayers expense? Or does anyone really think the Governor’s office had nothing to do with ethics commission types getting railroaded out or fired? To a geezer this is reminiscent of the tales told on the Kingfish with the exception that I haven’t heard about anyone having to pay 10% kickbacks.

Of course this could work out temporarily anyway if we get a Democrat in as Governor. With the Republicans running the legislature at the same time the taxpayers could benefit by putting the dys back in front of the function of state government’s current crony system.

PoliticalJoe July 15, 2014 at 10:19 am

These conversations are typical of attorneys and I don’t see what the big deal is. Anyone ever heard of parties settling after negotiating? Or maybe some of you would be more familiar with plea bargaining