Report: Former ethics director sues, claims wrongful firing

As we’ve talked about possible ethics reform in Georgia on this blog, some state leaders have suggested the better option is to empower the agency formerly known as the State Ethics Commission with more independence and better funding. While I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive, they do have a point about the need for shoring up the ethics commission (excuse me, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission).

That discussion is about to get much more interesting with a reported lawsuit filed by the commission’s former executive director, Stacey Kalberman, claiming she was wrongfully fired for investigating ethics complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal.

According to legal documents posted at CourthouseNews.com (h/t: Peach Pundit), Kalberman claims that in spring 2011 she was forced into a position to resign by the commission’s chairman at the time, Patrick Millsaps, who had made public statements that she already had resigned. The specific events involve the widely reported dispute between the two about the agency’s budget, which Kalberman claims Millsaps used as pretext for firing her.

Kalberman is suing the ethics commission’s new director, Holly LaBerge (in her official capacity), and Millsaps and is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

More details if/when I can reach Millsaps or Kalberman or their attorneys.

UPDATE: As I was writing this, the AJC’s news side posted a story of their own.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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73 comments Add your comment

JDW

June 13th, 2012
11:45 am

She’s right and if we are lucky she will bring Raw Deal down. Maybe some of those other yahoo’s will go out with him.

BADA BING

June 13th, 2012
11:49 am

Wednesday thoughts

I know a road that the KKK can sponser……The Highway To Hell

What would the KKK pick up on the highway?…..White Trash?

ByteMe

June 13th, 2012
11:50 am

Your thoughts on this Kyle?

Junior Samples

June 13th, 2012
11:56 am

Our Governor fixed the glitch

Kyle Wingfield

June 13th, 2012
12:01 pm

ByteMe: At the time, I wrote it was he said, she said between Kalberman and Millsaps. If this makes it to trial, we’ll see if one or the other has more than their word as evidence.

The only way I see this affecting Deal is if a) Millsaps says he was pressured by the governor to do what he did (which strikes me as unlikely of him to say, but who knows?) or b) it leads to the investigation being picked back up. Or I guess c) there’s enough smoke here that, combined with, say, the T-SPLOST, the tea party can recruit a prominent primary challenger to him in 2014. But that assumes a lot. And if Deal were in a weak enough position in 2014 where losing was a real possibility, I’d expect him just to “retire” instead.

Nick

June 13th, 2012
12:04 pm

That scumbag should have never been elected in the first place. That’s the problem with this country, this guy should be in jail, but he’s not-HE’S THE GOVERNOR OF FREAKING GEORGIA.

Junior Samples

June 13th, 2012
12:05 pm

We don’t deserve ethics reform until we elect a Governor that isn’t being investigated for…ethics violations.

Jefferson

June 13th, 2012
12:09 pm

To settle is to admit guilt, in this case.

Kyle Wingfield

June 13th, 2012
12:13 pm

One other possible result — if the suit is successful — is that it makes it harder imo to claim ethics commission independence as a substitute for other measures. A successful suit would make a powerful case for independence on its own merits, not just as a sop to those who want gift caps, etc.

Carole

June 13th, 2012
12:27 pm

I cannot wait to hear the evidence in this case.

@@

June 13th, 2012
12:29 pm

The specific events involve the widely reported dispute between the two about the agency’s budget, which Kalberman claims Millsaps used as pretext for firing her.

Kalberman was “laid-off” due to a budget shortfall?

Kalberman is suing the ethics commission’s new director, Holly LaBerge (in her official capacity), and Millsaps and is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

So what….is the new director working for free?

I’d like to see an independent investigation of the WH leaks but it looks like I won’t be getting one.

Kyle Wingfield

June 13th, 2012
12:36 pm

@@: Kalberman says she was told her salary would be cut by more than 30%, that she said she couldn’t work for that amount — but did not say she was resigning — and that subsequent media reports in which Millsaps said she had resigned undercut any authority she might have had, effectively forcing her to resign.

That, again, is her story. The part about the salary cut was confirmed at the time. (Her deputy/chief investigator was laid off completely, which was also attributed to budget cuts.)

iggy

June 13th, 2012
12:37 pm

Kalberman is a long time whiner and crybaby. Wrongfully terminated NO. Last I heard GA was a hire/fire at will State.

This is no more than a case of sour grapes from an incompetent woman. She would make a great addition to the Kenyan staff.

clyde

June 13th, 2012
12:38 pm

Ethics and politicians;as I’ve said many times before,they just ain’t compatible.

Kyle Wingfield

June 13th, 2012
12:41 pm

iggy: She’s claiming the firing was retaliation and should have been barred by whistleblower laws.

As for “Kalberman is a long time whiner and crybaby” — what sorts of things are you referring to?

Pop

June 13th, 2012
12:46 pm

iggy, I’m sure you can enlighten us regarding your personal experience with Kalberman to justify your characterization. Please share.

DawgDad

June 13th, 2012
12:48 pm

“Kalberman says she was told her salary would be cut by more than 30%, that she said she couldn’t work for that amount” and “suing the ethics commission’s new director, Holly LaBerge”

Sure sounds like this is all about what’s best for Kalberman, not the State.

Nathan Deal

June 13th, 2012
12:50 pm

You morons in this state voted me in even though I was already being investigated. Now I’m here to stay, and anyone who wants to come after me now is going down hard!

sheepdawg

June 13th, 2012
12:50 pm

maybe the lying crook will get his due from this lawsuit, but not likely. maybe the ignorant ga voters who elected the immoral, unethical person will gain some IQ before the next election, also not likely

BIg Hat

June 13th, 2012
12:53 pm

Ethics? We ain’t got no ethics. We don’t need no ethics! I don’t have to show you any stinkn’ ethics!!!

aloysius

June 13th, 2012
12:54 pm

C’Mon folks. This isn’t rocket science. There’s no way any official downtown can be unbiased in selecting “ethics” board members.
We need laws w/ serious teeth to them to eliminate this behavour. The best thing the state could do would be to make any and all lobbying ILLEGAL. This nonsense would end and any violations would be of a criminal nature for a jury to decide.

@@

June 13th, 2012
1:02 pm

Kyle:

30%, eh? How long has she been working for the government? What was her salary before the proposed cut?

I’m not laying blame here…just curious.

Speaking of whistleblower laws. My understanding is that Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than previous administrations, and yet, he’s not just blowin’ whistles, he’s bellowing up to a trumpet.

schnirt

Kyle Wingfield

June 13th, 2012
1:03 pm

DawgDad @ 12:48: As I noted earlier, she is suing the commission’s new director in her official capacity, because that’s what’s done in these sorts of lawsuits. As I understand it: You can’t sue the agency, so you sue the agency’s director, who would be expected to carry out any court orders resulting from the lawsuit.

I’m sure the lawyers out there will correct me if I’ve mangled the relevant law in any respect…

Centrist

June 13th, 2012
1:03 pm

Kalberman is a lawyer and a partisan Democrat. She is a money grubbing activist, and it won’t cost her much to have her hollow case thrown out. She will lose what little credibility she might ever have had with non-partisans, but could probably get a worthless Democrat nomination for some political office. She probably likes to see her name in the media, and that is her real aspiration/ motivation.

Kyle Wingfield

June 13th, 2012
1:06 pm

aloysius: I’m pretty sure the courts, citing the First Amendment, would have something to say about “mak[ing] any and all lobbying illegal.” It is perfectly legitimate for individuals, organizations and companies to tell legislators why a given bill would be good or bad for them.

In any case, lobbying has nothing to do with the present case.

Don't Tread

June 13th, 2012
1:08 pm

“maybe the ignorant ga voters who elected the immoral, unethical person will gain some IQ before the next election”

I wonder how ignorant the IL voters are and if they learned their lesson…their governor went to jail for attempting to sell 0bama’s Senate seat.

Ethics commission people should be elected instead of appointed, to make them as independent as possible of anyone they may have to investigate.

Kyle Wingfield

June 13th, 2012
1:09 pm

@@: A report at the time put the old salary at $120,000 a year and the new one at $85,000 a year. I don’t recall what the assistant made.

@@

June 13th, 2012
1:13 pm

make any and all lobbying ILLEGAL

Environmental lobbyists?

Union lobbyists?

Education lobbyists?

Abortion lobbyists?

Animal-Rights lobbyists?

Veterans of Foreign Wars?

The list goes on and on.

Can’t pick and choose. It’s all or none.

Jefferson

June 13th, 2012
1:20 pm

I vote for all.

carlosgvv

June 13th, 2012
1:25 pm

Let’s hope Kalberman has good lawyers. You may be sure Big Business will provide Deal and company the best legal talent money can buy.

Kris T.

June 13th, 2012
1:28 pm

Can anyone in the Georgia legislature spell ethics reform?
This further demonstrates how corrupt the Governor and the republican legislators.
Georgia last in public corruption laws.

To GOP clown circus
I will work to ensure you and your fellow Republicans reap unprecedented losses in November

Reelect President OBAMA 2012

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 13th, 2012
1:38 pm

I know I’m quaking in my boots worrying about Kris T.’s future involvement in the 2012 election cycle. :roll:

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

June 13th, 2012
1:51 pm

In her suit, Kalberman said she had discovered “troubling irregularities” in Deal’s campaign accounts, including donations in excess of contribution limits and contribution reports with “systematic irregularities.” – Urinal

If these things were cause for alarm, how come the AJC has no screeching news articles about obozo’s illegal campaign contributions?

Logical Dude

June 13th, 2012
1:53 pm

iggy June 13th, 2012 12:37 pm Kalberman is a long time whiner and crybaby.

Oh, Hi Millsaps. Welcome to the Blog.

(yes, I’m making as big of a leap of conjecture as I think iggy is. . . unless iggy has a personal beef with Kalberman.)

BS Aplenty

June 13th, 2012
2:02 pm

Ms. Kalberman may have a point but it’s going to be lost in translation in a court. State legislators will not cut more funding for teachers and PeachCare and leave the pay of the Executive Director of the Ethics Commission untouched.

In this budget environment, teaching children and funding healthcare trumps the pay of the Ethics Commission Executive Director.

Carole

June 13th, 2012
2:18 pm

Here’s something for the AJC to investigate. The State has been slashing agency budgets for the past few years. Have any OTHER agency heads had their salary cut by 30%? In addition, let’s not forget how he considerably INCREASED the salary of one person who didn’t even have experience in the area she was being moved to. Plus a few other people who got considerable increases. I hope this suit blows all of this wide open.

Jefferson

June 13th, 2012
2:29 pm

The GOP crooks are better than the D crooks, it appears.

@@

June 13th, 2012
2:31 pm

Jefferson:

The right to lobby is as old as the U.S. Constitution and is protected in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights which reads, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the right of the people … to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

I vote for all.

Including yourself or any grassroots organization to which you may belong?

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

June 13th, 2012
2:38 pm

Want to see America turn into Greece? Vote Republican.

No tax collection + lots of spending = Greece

Lower taxes + increased spending = USA under Republican control

Love me some Reagan

June 13th, 2012
2:39 pm

Kyle

Thank you for your continued efforts to highlight ethics and lobbying issues within the state. Jay and yourself have both done a great job.

Seems the good ole boy Dems of yesteryear in terms of their antics have given way to the good ole boy Repubs of today.
Of course, a good number are the same people, hence we get the same crap just marketed in a slightly different manner,

@@

June 13th, 2012
2:45 pm

Hillbilly D

June 13th, 2012
3:10 pm

Let’s see what the evidence is. Shine floodlights on it all.

Hillbilly D

June 13th, 2012
3:12 pm

This further demonstrates how corrupt the Governor and the republican legislators.
Georgia last in public corruption laws.

And how is it any different than it was for the 150 years that the Democratic Party controlled Georgia? Yeah, they’re crooks but party label has nothing to do with it.

@@

June 13th, 2012
3:15 pm

For Jefferson.

ACLU Welcomes Six New Dynamic Lobbyists To Washington Legislative Office

WASHINGTON –The American Civil Liberties Union today proudly announced the addition of several new and influential lobbyists to its Washington Legislative Office (WLO), marking the office’s highest staff levels since its creation in 1952.

“Never in the history of the ACLU have we had such a broad and robust lobbying team,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. “We are excited to welcome our new lobbyists and anticipate they will have a tremendous and immediate impact on the legislative and executive branch work of the ACLU.”

Civil liberties, Jefferson. Don’t, in a fit of frustration, give yours away.

Cooking for forty tonight. Being mathematically challenged, upping the measurements could prove to be a disaster. It’s the thought that counts.

Hillbilly D

June 13th, 2012
3:20 pm

Cooking for forty tonight.

There’s advantages to being a hermit. (IW&SH)

@@

June 13th, 2012
3:27 pm

Hillbilly:

There’s advantages to being a hermit.

So true! One of my favorite movies? “Secondhand Lions”

Jefferson

June 13th, 2012
3:41 pm

@@ – people who vote I have no problems for them voicing their concerns to their lawmakers — in person or in communication, I see no need to bribe them. If you don’t vote (unions/companies) stop with the big bribes.

ld

June 13th, 2012
3:42 pm

Perhaps instead of a “commission” on ethics we should just give the “sargent at arms” of our state house a gun and, if any rep takes any gift in any amount for any reason, he should be both legally authorized and legally obligated to shoot ‘em?

Dusty

June 13th, 2012
3:53 pm

It doesn’t work like this any more?

Your employer says we are cutting the budget and you will have a 30% cut in salary.

Then the employee says I am NOT working for a salary like that. What’’s the employer supposed to think? That she is going to stick around? Really?

More state expense and nasty noise from someone who does not want to lose her job. Ho hum No doubt both sides are innocent!

As to Gov. Deal, looks like he’s doing a good job to me. Been busy working for Georgia. Investigations? In Congress? What’s new? That’s old political clutter.. In the meantime, let us consider Gov. Deal innocent until proven guilty. Right, you digging for dirt Democrats?

@@

June 13th, 2012
3:57 pm

Jefferson:

Government regulations could prove costly for the company where you work, thereby, impacting your job security… do you not want them to lobby on yours and their behalf?

I’ll look for your answer later.

For now, I’ve got food to haul.