Settlement Amounts Add Up in Gov. Deal Whistleblower Lawsuits
(APN) ATLANTA — The latest reports on the whistleblower suits against Gov. Nathan Deal have him in full-blown denial and even attempting to revise whistleblowers laws, presumably to keep the embarrassment of getting busted from happening again. Critics are none too pleased.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, in April 2014, whistleblower Stacey Kalbermann, former Executive Secretary of the Georgia State Ethics Commission, was awarded 700,000 dollars by a jury, after being fired for investigating the Governor.
Now, three additional whistleblowers have settled with the State of Georgia, according to news reports. Under the terms, the commission’s former deputy, Sherry Streicker, will be awarded one million dollars; former staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein will be handed a check for 477,500 dollars; and John Hair from Information Technology will cash in 410,000.
On top of these amounts, Georgia taxpayers will be paying for attorneys’ fees.
“There are two things to consider here: one is the settlement and verdict and the second is the cost in defending the State. One can assume, that Ms. Kalbermann’s total payout is approximately 1.15 million dollars, her attorney’s fees cost around 415,000,” Bryan Thomas, Communications Director for the Carter for Governor campaign, told APN.
Thus, the costs to taxpayers are at least three million dollars, likely closer to or greater than four million.
Having all but admitted guilt by settling out of court, Gov. Deal’s answer is to tighten whistleblower laws through an unmanned ethics commission.
“Georgia taxpayers are now on the hook for more than $3 million in settlements. These settlements stem from pending and threatened lawsuits by multiple former state ethics officials who were wrongly terminated following their investigation into Gov. Deal’s 2010 campaign,” the Carter for Governor campaign said in a statement.
“As a taxpayer, I’m outraged, and as a citizen, I’m embarrassed,” State Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur) said. “I’m outraged that we’re now on the hook for $3 million, and I’m embarrassed that this is happening in our state. Taxpayers deserve to know what Gov. Deal’s campaign did that they are working so hard to hide from the public. The cover-up continues, so not only do we have to pay $3 million, but we still don’t know what happened. The full investigation needs to be reopened immediately.”
“It must be nice to not have to pay for your own ethics violations—but after decades of living off of taxpayer money, why wouldn’t Nathan Deal expect us to pay for this too?” Democratic Party of Georgia Chair DuBose Porter said.
The attempt to change whistleblower law is, according to Governor Deal’s logic, to disable anymore future payouts (to those who would defy him).
“Governor Nathan Deal… reiterated state lawmakers should consider limiting who qualifies as a whistleblower. The comments come just days after the state agreed to spend more than $1.8 million to settle three remaining whistleblower complaints by former state ethics employees,” WABE reported.
According to Thomas, the Carter Campaign has sent a letter to State Attorney General Sam Olens, asking him to investigate Gov. Deal, that Olens must respond to.
His response, or lack thereof, will determine what the next moves will be for advocates for ethics across the state.
“If he doesn’t choose to reopen the case, he’ll have to explain why to the citizens of Georgia,” Thomas tells APN.