“It looks like we now have the kind of scandal so many of us have feared.”
We know Gov. Deal’s scandal is bad, not because of politics, but because of sworn testimony.
The governor’s attorney told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Georgia’s top ethics chief, “held us to the highest level of scrutiny and didn’t do us any favors.”
But Holly LaBerge’s sworn testimony tells a different story.
As Gov. Deal’s hand-picked head of the state ethics commission, LaBerge, admits the governor’s office called her in May 2011 to see if she would be interested in replacing the sitting ethics chief who was, at precisely the same time, preparing to subpoena Gov. Nathan Deal’s financial records.
When the ethics chief planning to subpoena the records was fired due to sudden “budget cuts,” LaBerge was brought on.
She never issued a subpoena for any of Gov. Deal’s financial records. She eventually got a 17 percent pay raise.
According to sworn testimony from current and former staffers, LaBerge began a campaign to remove documents from the ongoing investigation.
And she stated under oath that she began negotiating with the governor’s office in private meetings, without the state’s ethics attorney in the room.
Unlike the ethics chief before her, LaBerge is not an attorney. She needed the ethics commission’s staff attorney to sign off on the final deal with the governor’s office.
According to sworn testimony from the state’s current ethics staff attorney, LaBerge forced the attorney to sign off on an agreement that would lower Gov. Deal’s fine from more than $70,000 to just $3,350.
Most of the charges were dropped without any evidence being presented to the ethics commissioners. The commission’s final decision was based on little to no evidence and was made only after key documents had been removed.
This is what Gov. Deal’s attorney calls “the highest level of scrutiny.”
If you agree that removing and destroying documents from an ongoing investigation is “the highest level of scrutiny,” then you must also trust that your tax dollars that contribute to the state’s multi-billion dollar budget are in safe hands.
But if you believe there are at least a few questions that still need to be answered in order to restore public trust, then please sign Better Georgia’s petition to demand an independent investigation.
Gov. Nathan Deal said in May, the same month he privately called Holly LaBerge to make his own ethics problems quietly disappear, “Our success as leaders of Georgia depends heavily on the public’s ability to trust us.”
We couldn’t agree more with Gov. Deal’s own words.
If Gov. Deal has nothing to hide, he will call for an independent investigation to clear his name.