Posted: 6:00 am Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
By Greg Bluestein
Another former Georgia ethics staffer sends word she is planning a lawsuit against the ethics commission.
Former staffer Elisabeth Murray-Obertein plans to file her own lawsuit against the agency, according to her attorney, Cheryl Legare. The news comes days after a jury sided with Stacey Kalberman, the commission’s former director, in a lawsuit claiming she was forced out for too aggressively investigating a complaint stemming from Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign.
It would be the fourth whistle-blower case filed against the embattled agency, and an unwelcome development for a governor facing re-election against opponents who have taken up ethics as a mantra. Deal on Monday abandoned his attempts to distance himself from the agency and instead called for a “comprehensive” overhaul.
Former staffers Sherilyn Streicker and John Hair have filed similar lawsuits that are now winding their way through the courts. Neither is on the trial calendar yet, though, and they may not make it that far. As noted earlier, several jurors polled after the Kalberman case openly questioned why state attorneys didn’t settle before bringing to trial.
Murray-Obertein’s case could prove more complicated than some of the others.
She was the commission’s top lawyer and, in sworn testimony, accused director Holly LaBerge of bragging that Deal “owes” for making the most serious complaints against him go away. (Deal and LaBerge have denied involvement.) She was also fired in January, shortly after a police officer said she appeared intoxicated at work.
About the Author
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He joined the newspaper in June 2012 after spending seven years with the Atlanta bureau of The Associated Press. He also contributes to the AJC's Political Insider blog. Bluestein has traveled to Haiti with President Jimmy Carter, journeyed to Panama with Gov. Nathan Deal and tracked down a suspected Ponzi schemer in suburban Kansas. He spent weeks in Louisiana covering the Gulf Oil Spill, became an unwitting expert on capital punishment after witnessing almost a dozen executions in Georgia's death chamber and was part of award-winning teams that descended upon the biggest breaking news events in the Southeast. Bluestein has covered a range of beats, including environment, legal affairs and economic development. He's now the AJC's political writer, charged with covering the intricacies of Georgia's lively government on the newspaper's front pages and in the Political Insider blog. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two daughters.