Monday November 30th, 2015 5:30PM

Lawyer: Ethics commissioner wanted case dropped

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA - The chairman of Georgia's ethics commission pressured the commission's attorney to settle complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal, the attorney said in an affidavit.

Attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein said in the affidavit filed Friday that Chairman Kevin Abernethy called her several times ahead of a July 23, 2012, meeting to discuss the cases against Deal, who was accused of misusing campaign funds during the 2010 election. Abernethy denies those accusations.

"Commissioner Abernethy attempted in each phone conversation to pressure me into settling the complaint," Murray-Obertein said in the affidavit obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "In fact, Commissioner Abernethy informed me that the commissioners would vote to dismiss the complaints (and that I should settle the complaints because there was no point in having hearings)."

Murray-Obertein made the accusation in an affidavit filed in a lawsuit brought by the commission's former deputy director, Sherilyn Streicker.

Abernethy said there is no truth in the accusations made by Murray-Obertein.
"I deny everything that is being said," Abernethy told the newspaper. "I resent it. It's false."

He noted that Murray-Obertein agreed with a commission decision to dismiss a complaint focused on how Deal's campaign paid for airfare on a plane his company partly owned. Murray-Obertein called the commission's investigation "very thorough," according to a video recording of the meeting.

"I actually do not object to the motion to dismiss this particular complaint," she said.

However, Murray-Obertein objected at that meeting to dismissing a separate complaint focusing on Deal's use of state campaign funds to pay for his defense in a congressional probe.

Deal was cleared of major charges and paid $3,350 in administrative fees for "technical defects" to his campaign reports. Murray-Obertein had recommended $70,000 in fines.

The commission's former executive director, Stacey Kalberman, and her deputy, Streicker, filed lawsuits last year after the ethics commission decided to slash Kalberman's salary by about 30 percent and eliminate Streicker's position. At the time, Kalberman and Streicker were seeking approval from commissioners to issue subpoenas in the Deal investigation. Kalberman ultimately resigned.

Among those called to provide depositions in the two pending lawsuits are current commission Executive Secretary Holly LaBerge. LaBerge said in sworn statements that she received a phone call from the governor's office asking whether she was interested in the job before the job was open. The commission is meant to be an independent watchdog agency overseeing campaign finance and lobbying and is charged with hiring its own chief.

Murray-Obertein said in earlier sworn statements that LaBerge has on more than one occasion said the governor "owes her" for taking care of his ethics complaints. Deal has told reporters that he doesn't know LaBerge and that he doesn't owe her anything.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Dems, GOP seek to define issue for 2014 elections
Ten months to next year's midterm elections, Democrats are determined to make Congress' slim production of fewer than 60 laws and plenty of incompletes - on immigration, gun control, tax reform and basic spending bills - a defining issue, heaping much of the blame on the GOP-led House for obstructing President Barack Obama's second-term agenda.
1:38PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
Mexican sales tax hike seen as boon on US border
Mexican license plates are common in parking lots of shopping malls in U.S. border cities. They will be even more familiar after Mexico raises its federal sales tax in border regions to match the rest of the country, say merchants and shoppers.
11:06AM ( 1 year ago )
Longtime Habersham County Clerk of Court Ernest Nations to be remembered
Longtime former Habersham County Clerk of Court Ernest Nations Jr. died Sunday, Nov. 29, following an extended illness.
3:52PM ( 1 hour ago )
Hall deputies arrest Nov. 21 chase suspect
A Gainesville man wanted for allegedly sideswiping a patrol car on Highway 365 a week ago was arrested over the weekend.
3:06PM ( 2 hours ago )
Man struck by car, killed on Athens Hwy. south of Gainesville
Charges are pending in a weekend accident that killed a pedestrian on Athens Highway.
1:34PM ( 3 hours ago )
Georgia's Mark Richt not done coaching, will listen to anyone interested in giving him a job
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Mark Richt remains interested in another coaching job and said Monday he will listen "to anybody who has interest in me" as he prepares for his final game as Georgia's coach.Georgia...
1:10PM ( 4 hours ago )
Flowery Branch man charged with Thanksgiving Day attack on juveniles
Flowery Branch police have arrested a man for a Thanksgiving Day assault on two juveniles.
12:49PM ( 4 hours ago )