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Friday September 4th, 2015 12:37PM

Ex-ethics chief in Ga. wins retaliation lawsuit

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA - Jurors ruled in favor of the former director of Georgia's ethics commission on Friday, awarding her $700,000 in a lawsuit alleging retaliation for investigating complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal.

The jury decided in favor of Stacey Kalberman after more than two hours of deliberation.

Kalberman claimed in a lawsuit that commissioners had cut her salary and eliminated her deputy's position as she was seeking approval to issue subpoenas as part of the agency's investigation of Deal's 2010 campaign reports and financial disclosures.

Former commissioners had said the personnel actions were motivated by budgetary concerns.

The Republican governor was later cleared of major violations in the ethics probe and agreed to pay $3,350 in administrative fees.

Kalberman alleged in her lawsuit that commissioners retaliated against her after she presented them with subpoenas.

During three days of testimony, jurors heard from a string of witnesses, including former commissioners, current and former commission staffers and Kalberman herself.

In her closing argument, Kalberman attorney Kim Worth argued that her client faced direct retaliation for zealously pursuing an investigation into complaints against the governor.

Assistant Attorney General Bryan Webb countered that dire budget problems facing the agency were the motivation behind the personnel actions.

Throughout the trial, Kalberman's lawyers had sought to sway the jury that the commission's decision to cut her salary by about a third and to eliminate the position of her deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, after the two sought subpoenas in the Deal investigation during a May 3, 2011, commission meeting.

The state's lawyers insisted that Kalberman gave an alarmist account of the agency's budget situation during a meeting and then had the gall to ask for raises for herself and some members of her staff in an executive session that followed. That caused some commissioners to begin to doubt her budget management skills, Webb said.
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