Nathan Deal Finally Admits His Office Advised Ethics Commission on Replacing the Executive Director; Now Wants to Restrict Rights of Whistle-blowers
In case you missed it last Thursday, WABE’s Dennis O’Hayer sat down with Gov. Nathan Deal to discuss the upcoming general election. During the interview, O’Hayer asked Deal about his involvement in the state ethics commission political payback scheme. Here’s what Deal said:
Deal: “My executive counsel got a phone call from a member of the ethics commission asking if he knew of anyone who might be interested in talking to them about a position with the commission.”
O’Hayer: “So you’re saying you did not initiate that?”
Deal: “No, not at all. I didn’t know about it until well after the fact. We get those kind of calls, from department heads and agencies, all the time. ‘Do you know of somebody in state government who might want to make a change, or might be looking to go to another type of agency?’ If that’s the involvement, that’s a very thin line to be able to place any responsibility on.
“He did understand that Holly LaBerge might be interested in moving from where she was with the public defender’s office. He relayed that information to the ethics commission, they made the judgment call … If that’s all that they can hang their hat on, that’s a very thin line.”
This month, the AJC reported that the governor’s office played a DIRECT role in recruiting ex-ethics commission head Stacey Kalberman’s replacement:
The line isn’t as slender as the governor might like. What Deal didn’t say was that Ryan Teague, the governor’s executive counsel, didn’t just pass LaBerge’s name along, but called her himself. LaBerge testified in Kalberman’s case that she was contacted by someone in the governor’s office, but said she didn’t remember who it was.
Deal’s office, however, told the AJC it was Teague.
Teague and the governor’s chief of staff, Chris Riley, also met with LaBerge, according to records.
That exchange is a FAR cry from last October when the governor said “I’m obviously an observer from the outside who is apparently getting credit for having done all this and I’ve had nothing to do with any of that.”
It appears that Nathan Deal not only wants to suppress the truth about his office’s involvement in the political payback scheme involving the state ethics commission—he is shifting the blame to the very people investigating him.
“It’s certainly something that I think we need to look at – the circumstances that give rise to giving whistle-blower status to people who are charged with investigations. If that is the definition of who’s entitled to be a whistle-blower, than you have the inspector general’s office and you have the ethics commission, all of whom by the very nature of their job description, make them investigators. If by that job description we’ve automatically made them whistle-blowers, then that’s something that ought to be investigated as well.”
Sen. Jason Carter responded to Deal’s comments in a WSB interview, saying:
“To me, the whistle-blower parts of our ethics laws are some of the only parts that are working really well. The fact that Governor Deal wants to weaken them doesn’t make any sense.”
“I think we have to have tougher ethics laws and frankly more protection for whistle-blowers. The fact that the governor is responding to this ethics scandal by calling for weaker ethics laws is the wrong direction, and folks are going to see that.”
“The more people that are keeping their eyes on what politicians are doing, the better.”
In a poll released Monday by Rasmussen, a right-leaning firm favored by the GOP, Sen. Carter leads Gov. Deal in the general election matchup 48 percent to 41 percent. When asked “which candidate for governor do you trust more on government ethics and corruption”, respondents who identify themselves as Independents favored Sen. Carter by 10 points.
Voters are paying attention—and they know that our state cannot afford another four years of Nathan Deal’s unethical conduct.
Last week, it was reported that first trial concerning the political payback scheme involving an investigation of Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign will cost state taxpayers a total of $1.15 million. This amount is almost as much as the entire ethics commission’s $1.35 million annual budget.
Two additional lawsuits involving the ethics commission and its Deal investigation are set to go to trial in June and October.
Georgians expect Gov. Deal to be truthful, accept responsibility for his failures and cooperate with any investigation. Instead, Deal successfully quashed his subpoena to testify in the Kalberman trial and is now targeting whistle-blowers for telling the truth.
Come November, with your help, voters will remind Nathan Deal that he was never the victim—the people of Georgia were.