Deal: Ethics whistleblower 'self serving'

A defiant Governor Nathan Deal is responding to calls to reopen an ethics investigation against him.

ATLANTA -- A defiant Governor Nathan Deal is responding to calls to reopen an ethics investigation against him.

His response comes after a never-before-seen memo was released this week accusing the governor's office of a cover up.

This all began in 2010. After Deal was elected, the ethics commission director, Stacy Kalberman, tried to issue subpoenas to investigate his campaign practices. She was forced to resign and then replaced by Holly Leberge.

In 2012, Deal was cleared of major violations.

In a trial earlier this year, a judge ruled Kalberman was wrongfully terminated. She won a million dollar settlement. Three other cases were settled for an additional $2 million.

RELATED | Ethics Commission whistleblower talks about trial

On Tuesday, the memo was released. It documented a phone call Laberge claims she got from Deal's executive counsel telling her to make the investigation go away.

Click here to read the memo

When Gov. Deal exited a state helicopter following a groundbreaking in central Georgia, he was met by 11Alive's Doug Richards, who asked Deal if he could ask some questions about the latest wrinkle in his ethics investigations. Deal agreed.

Doug Richards: The director of the ethics commission says that your executive counsel told her over the phone that it would not be in the best interest of the ethics commission to proceed with the case against you.

Gov. Deal: I don't think that's what he said. I don't think that's what she says he said. I think you've got it wrong.

Q. She wrote that in the note. (Note: Holly LaBerge wrote "Ryan [Teague] informed me that it was not in the agency's best interest for these cases to go to a hearing Monday.")

ND: I don't believe that's the language that she used. This is somebody who is preparing a self serving memo and one side of a conversation. I don't believe there were any threats. I think the point was this. This is a case that had gone on for over two years. And we were expecting that the commission would hear the case. There were five allegations. And we were expecting them to hear this. And we could not get an answer as to whether or not they were going to be heard, whether only one or two of them were going to be heard. We thought it was important that this issue be brought before the commission, because as long as the commission was not allowed to hear the evidence, no final resolution could be reached. So when they finally heard the evidence, they dismissed all of them as being lacking in any merit.

Q: What would be her motivation to write a memo like that though? If there wasn't some element of truth?

ND: What would be your motivation for sending the ethics commission members a letter saying you're claiming whistleblower status? I don't know the answer to either.

Q: But she did that years later, though. She did that two years later.

ND: Well you know when the memo was written?

Q: It was in July of 2012

ND: Who says that?

Q: She does

ND: OK. She wrote the letter too. Or her lawyer did.

Q: You're saying she's lying in the letter?

ND: I don't know what she's doing. I think you would need to ask her. I think you need to ask the attorney general. I think you need to ask her private counsel.

Q: Would it be appropriate for your counsel to have said that to her if he said it?

A: He was simply trying to figure out what my schedule was going to be for that week. What his schedule was going to be for that week, and to urge her that if she wanted credibility, in terms of focusing this commission is doing its job, then this was something that should not be prolonged. Over two and a half years, to get a simple resolution to anything?

A: For example one of the allegations was that we received checks from an individual who had different corporations different names on the check. We reported them as we should. But we realized that the same individual had an ownership interest in all of those different corporations. Therefore, his cumulative contribution exceeded $6300. We immediately refunded the excess amount and reported it... And we reported that we had refunded the money. Nobody filed a complaint until after the fact when it showed up on our reports. Now do you think it would take two and a half years to resolve that that was a frivolous allegation? Because it was, we followed the law? But it did. It took two and a half years. It took going before the entire campaign commission in order to get a simple answer to something like that.

Q: There have been calls for a special investigator perhaps to look at the full matter. What do you think of that?

ND: I don't think there's any reason for that. If they don't trust the judgment of the five commissioners, who were finally allowed to hear the evidence, I don't think they're going to trust anybody else's opinion. If you would just simply look at the allegations, they were simple issues. That was an example of one that, it wouldn't take anybody with general common sense including all of us, but just a minute to say ' that is a ridiculous allegation.' Why would it take two and a half years to be able to come to that conclusion? I think it's an indication that the system is broken. And I think fully that the commissioners themselves, when they finally are allowed to hear evidence, will act appropriately.


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