Here's Deal defense:The head of the state ethics commission said she was threatened and pressured by Gov. Nathan Deal’s office in 2012 to “make the complaints” against the governor “go away,” according to a memo obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
While on vacation in July 2012, state ethics commission director Holly LaBerge says she received a call from Ryan Teague, Deal’s chief counsel, and texts from chief of staff Chris Riley, according to the memo released by Attorney General Sam Olens’ office in response to an Open Records Act request.
LaBerge claims Teague said, “It was not in the agency’s best interest for these cases to go to a hearing … nor was it in their best political interest either.”
LaBerge includes what she said are text messages from Riley.
“So since you are at the beach, with your feet in the sand and probably something cold to drink. Does this mean we can resolve all DFG (Deal for Governor) issues by Monday? :)” Riley allegedly texted LaBerge.
Days later, the commission voted during a public hearing to dismiss the major complaints against Deal, who agreed to pay $3,350 in fees for technical defects to his campaign disclosures. The complaints included claims Deal improperly paid for use of a private aircraft for campaign travel and questioned his use of campaign funds to pay legal fees during his 2010 campaign.
LaBerge’s allegations in the memo represent the first time she has claimed top aides to Deal personally pressured her to quietly settle the cases against the governor and to avoid a public hearing. Former commission Chairman Kevin Abernethy confirmed Monday that he asked LaBerge to draft the memo after she said she was contacted by Teague.
“I told her you need to memorialize this in the event it ever resurfaces so we have an accurate record of what occurred,” Abernethy said. - Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/14/14
Jason Carter (D. GA) has been hitting Deal on this and is demanding for a new investigation:The governor said the bombshell ethics memo that surfaced on Monday had come as a surprise, and he asked why it hadn’t been released sooner. In the memo, ethics agency director Holly LaBerge accused his staff of pressuring her — she characterized the communications as threats — to make campaign complaints against him disappear.
“This is an independent agency,” he told us. “This was a document that was prepared by the staff of the agency, of which we had no knowledge, either. That’s a good question: Why didn’t it come out until now? Why were we all in the dark? I think it further proves they are an independent agency, and my office had no operational knowledge.”
The governor, also said he believes his chief of staff, Chris Riley, and his executive counsel, Ryan Teague, acted appropriately in contacting LaBerge. She said in the memo she received a call from Teague and texts from Riley pushing her to wrap up the ethics complaints soon. - Atlanta Journal Constitution, 7/15/14
We have a serious shot here to defeat Deal and this ethics investigation has been hurting him. Click here to donate and get involved with Carter's campaign:A memo by the head of the state ethics commission in which she claims an attorney for Gov. Nathan Deal threatened her agency during its investigation of complaints against the governor demonstrates a "pattern of intimidation and interference on the part of the governor's office," Democrat Jason Carter said Tuesday.
Carter, a state senator running against Deal in the November election, also renewed his call for a state investigation and appealed to Attorney General Sam Olens to appoint an independent investigator.
"We still don't have answers to what it was that was so bad that they went to these great lengths to hide," Carter told reporters. "We have no one who is willing to apparently investigate the governor's office and what is clear misconduct at a minimum and probably illegal conduct on the part of his staff."
Olens has said he doesn't have the authority to hire someone independent of his office and also does not want to interfere with two other investigations involving the commission. Carter said he disagrees with Olens' decision, adding he was concerned the memo was not released earlier during civil lawsuits against the commission. - Times Free Press, 7/16/14