Posted: 6:05 pm Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Sam Olens explains a ‘frustrating,’ explosive memo — and an opposing view 

By Greg Bluestein

Attorney General Sam Olens just released his explanation of why the bombshell memo from ethics chief Holly LaBerge claiming that Gov. Nathan Deal’s aides pushed her to make complaints go away only emerged in public yesterday.

Take note of the last line, where he rejects Democrat Jason Carter’s call for an independent probe into the claims. We also have a serious opposing view.

Here goes:

My office has received a number of questions regarding the news this week about the Ethics Commission and Holly LaBerge’s Memorandum of Record. I want to address as many of them as I can now.

From the outset, though, I want to make clear that many of those questions relate directly to the legal representation this office has provided Ms. LaBerge and the Ethics Commission in the context of litigation. This office is still in an attorney-client relationship with Ms. LaBerge in her official capacity, and that means the full answer to some of the questions you have would require the disclosure of attorney-client privileged information. Yesterday, we formally requested that she waive that privilege so that we could set the record straight, but to date we have not received that waiver. Unless and until that privilege is waived, I am severely limited in the extent to which I can fully answer some questions.

I know this is frustrating to you; I can assure you, I find it even more frustrating.

Ms. LaBerge’s memo is dated July 17, 2012. After our office was given the memo in August 2013, our civil trial team reviewed the memo to determine if it was subject to the pending discovery requests. Our chief prosecutor also reviewed it the week we received it to determine if any criminal laws had been violated if the allegations in the memorandum were true. I was made aware of the memo after our chief prosecutor concluded his review and determined that the allegations in the memorandum did not constitute crimes under state law. In addition, our civil lawyers determined it was not responsive to the discovery request in the civil litigation.

In late 2013, federal subpoenas were issued to current and former employees of the Commission. Our office explained to Ms. LaBerge that we did not represent her with respect to responding to the subpoena and explained to her and her private lawyer that the only thing we could tell her is to cooperate fully, and that the memo was responsive.

There have been several questions about the responsiveness of the memo to certain specific discovery requests:

– Ms. Kalberman requested “correspondence” between Ms. LaBerge and the Governor’s Office. The memo is not correspondence; it is a document written by Ms. LaBerge and retained by her. It did not become correspondence when she gave us a copy 13 months later.

– Ms. Streicker requested documents “concerning the violation of any law, rule, or regulation” by Governor Deal, “including all complaints filed with the Defendant, all files concerning the investigation of such complaints, and all documents obtained as part of such investigations.” The memo was not about violations of law, rule, or regulation, it was not a complaint, it was not concerning the investigation of a complaint, and it was not a document obtained as part of an investigation.

I recognize that this may seem like a technical response. Let me be clear – I wish that a request had been issued to which the memorandum was responsive. That would have been easier for the office. But the lawyers in my office represent the State and its agencies, and have a legal duty to do so zealously. Their obligation is to work with our clients to produce all documents responsive to a plaintiff’s request; it is not their obligation to produce documents that plaintiffs haven’t asked for. I also recognize that plaintiffs’ counsel may disagree with our office’s position on this. I am not surprised. Lawyers can and often do disagree about almost anything.

I will say this – it is in the public record that these matters were testified to in some detail by Ms. Murray-Obertein in her deposition (excerpt attached). Following Ms. Murray-Obertein’s testimony, Plaintiffs’ lawyers chose not to ask Ms. LaBerge any questions about this issue either in discovery or at trial.

The news reports of the last day may well have uncovered a different discovery-related problem, however. During the interview of Ms. LaBerge on Fox 5 last night, Ms. LaBerge said that she forwarded text messages from the Governor’s Office to her personal email – and an image of one of those messages was then shown on the screen. That concerns me, because no one in my office was aware that such emails exist. After an agreement with Plaintiffs to produce all work-related emails from Ms. LaBerge’s personal email account, our office turned over to plaintiffs every personal email that Ms. LaBerge provided to us. The text messages in Ms. LaBerge’s email account shown in the interview last night would almost certainly have been responsive and should have been produced. My office is taking immediate steps to learn why we never received the emails.

We have been asked a number of questions about how our office prepared Ms. LaBerge for her testimony with regard to the memo. Any suggestion that any employee of our office advised anyone to testify less than truthfully in any way is categorically false. As much as I want to respond more specifically on this point, attorney-client privilege prevents me from doing so.

I am aware of renewed requests to appoint some sort of independent attorney to investigate these matters. As I have previously stated, two other investigations – one federal, one state – are currently pending. This office has been representing Ms. LaBerge and the Ethics Commission in related matters. The only reasons to interject this office into the investigations at this point are political.

But wait — there’s more. Specifically, we have an opposing argument from Kim Worth, attorney for Stacey Kalberman, the executive secretary of the state ethics commission who recently won more than $1 million in awards and lawyer fees from a Fulton County jury. From Worth:

We are shocked and disappointed to learn the Attorney General’s office did not believe it was under any legal obligation to produce the materials recently identified by Holly LaBerge.  These materials go to the heart of Ms. Kalberman’s claim in her lawsuit that she was terminated for investigating the Deal campaign and then replaced with a person that the Governor’s office apparently believed it could influence.

 The Attorney General’s office has asserted that a memorandum recently identified by Ms. LaBerge was not “responsive” to any of Ms. Kalberman’s discovery requests. To the contrary, Ms. Kalberman requested the “entire Deal Investigation file,” which should have included the LaBerge memorandum. Certainly, if the Governor was under investigation for alleged ethics violations, a memo which includes purported threats from his attorney should be part of that file. There is no legal justification for alienating this damaging memorandum from the Deal Investigation file, especially as the file that was produced during litigation contained numerous other memoranda drafted by Commission staff.  

 In addition, Ms. Kalberman requested all correspondence between Ms. LaBerge and anyone from the Governor’s office, which would necessarily include any text messages Ms. LaBerge received from the Governor’s counsel and chief of staff.  Ms. LaBerge quoted in her memorandum particular text messages with the Governor’s counsel and chief of staff, unquestionably putting the Attorney General’s office on notice that responsive correspondence existed and should be produced, and in fact rendering the memorandum itself responsive to Ms. Kalberman’s request for correspondence.  Today, however, the Attorney General’s office has attempted to deflect attention to Ms. LaBerge for allegedly withholding emails containing these text messages, all the while ignoring its own discovery obligations under the law, which include, without limitation, contacting Ms. LaBerge upon receipt of the memorandum and asking for the text messages that she received from the Governor’s office.

 Finally, and even more disturbing, Ms. Kalberman made an Open Records Request in July 2013 seeking any and all e-mails to and from Ms. LaBerge’s personal email account concerning (among other things) the Deal investigation. As we now know, these text messages were sent by Ms. LaBerge to her personal email account, yet those emails were not produced either in discovery or in response to our office’s open records request. The text messages, emails, and the memorandum itself were subject to production by the Attorney General’s office both during and after discovery, as attorneys have a legal obligation to continually supplement our discovery responses when new information is obtained.

 Notably, at trial, the Attorney General’s office moved to exclude all evidence related to the resolution of the Deal Complaints. 

 At this time, Ms. Kalberman is exploring her legal remedies.

 

129 comments
Rugah
Rugah

I don't care whether your a Democrat or Republican.  Even if you think Jason Carter's suggestion to have an independent investigation is politically driven...SO WHAT!!!!  What's wrong with having an independent investigation?  This crap is so out of whack, that's exactly what they need.

CuriousPrime
CuriousPrime

This is a new chapter to the Republican Governors Association's playbook called "Turn a Blind Eye Chris Christy Policy.".  Establish an infrastructure of fectlessness, funded by big money interests, and hidden by political rethoric.  Then waste taxpayers money when the policy violation is exposed, claim to be "blindsided" by the actions of subordinates, and blame the media for ferreting the ongoing storyline to get ratings.

Point
Point

Regarding Olens...let's not forget he wasted taxpayer dollars prosecuting  Balfour for a less than $100.00 mistake on travel and Olens lost.  I'vr always wondered who masterminded that plan.

lithoniaguy
lithoniaguy

Deal knows the racist confederate flag waving voters will still vote for him no matter what.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Olens says something like this: 

There have been several responses to the "kitten" to certain discovery requests.

 Ms. Kalberman requested “cat” between Ms. LaBerge and the Governor’s Office. The "kitten" is not "cat."

The "kitten" was not about a grown feline, it was not a cat, it was not concerning the investigation of a cat, and it was not an animal obtained as part of an investigation.

and then this: 

I recognize that this may seem like a technical response. I also recognize that plaintiffs’ counsel may disagree with our office’s position on this. I am not surprised. Lawyers can and often do disagree about almost anything.


As if saying "Yep, we're lawyers, we suck!" helps the matter any more than just getting to the truth. 

SomebodySaid
SomebodySaid

Redneck Wategate!! Awesome!!

These people are nailed. Question is; do the voters care? Sadly, I doubt it.

Eustis
Eustis

EdUktr,

You obsessed with Carter?

If he is such a certain loser, why waste your time?

Laurie1113
Laurie1113

I'm pretty sure Deal is a crook, and has surrounded himself with like minded folks to protect him.  When the ethics case was originally shut down so quickly, anyone with half a brain should have known what was going on.  But hey, if SC can re-elect a governor who admitted to stealing tax payer money back into the state legislator, than it's our obligation to do one better, right?  As long as we have wolves guarding the chicken house, we can't expect anything less.

CuriousPrime
CuriousPrime

In Georgia, "ethics" is not a part of the conservative political definition of "moral character." Sexual indiscretion was a part of their definition until 2001, then for some reason (Clinton left office) it was eliminated as well.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

He  (Olens) does not represent the public first,  he has shown.  He has a master.

Joeleejohnson
Joeleejohnson

"In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain, and Darius the Median took the kingdom."

blah blah blah
blah blah blah

Wow, just how incompetent is the AG???  We need to make an example out of these people...  Failure from the top down.  And I thought Obama was a terrible.  Vote them all out!!!

Jke
Jke

While this is all very interesting, and everyone has their political behinds and behinds in protection mode (Deal, Olens, LaBerge, etc.), or are seeking political or financial gain (Carter and Hecht), or additional fame (Worth), it is still much too early to sort all this out.  


I imagine most all of the folks involved are very smart and clever, and while that doesn't insulate them from making a mistake or doing something wrong, it should give pause to the natural tendency to jump to a conclusion. Like the judge tells the jury, wait until you hear all the evidence before you deliberate.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

"I don't know about Governor Barnes, but the Citizens of Georgia have certainly suffered due to incompetent 'governance' since 2003."

...or maybe you do not want to know.  Fuuny for someone like you who has been living in Geogia for awhile cannot remember the last elected lib governor in this state and what a dud he was.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

Jason Carter has nothing to run on so he plays this holier-than-thou garbage to state "I am not Deal".  No matter how hard the AJC pushes Jason t be elected, he will lose.  Funny to see the libs bashing a state GOP official for not enforcing the law but turn a blind eye when their chosen one Obama does the exact same thing.

GaPatriot
GaPatriot

Olens has averted and avoided using his office to prosecute Dwight Brown on theft and racketeering charges concerning Cobb EMC.  Pedernales in Tx had the benefit of the State AG, but they probably weren't involved in the EMC as Olens was Cobb Commissioner at the time.  Why does the county AG in Gwinnett able to prosecute discrepancies, but Cobb's players remain uncharged? 

SouthGeorgiareader
SouthGeorgiareader

Millions in taxpayer money have already been committed to make this whole thing go away.  It hasn't faded yet from public view and won't until Deal, the AG, and the rest of the Guv's minions come clean.  When someone responds in a technical and convoluted memo like this one, it just creates a smokescreen that's easy to detect.

Jack_Republican
Jack_Republican

What we have is a concerted liberal media effort to elect Carter as governor.  It worked with Obama; but  not this time.

fatleo
fatleo

So is it true td1234 is taking over the case from Sam? ...

DS
DS

"Ms. Kalberman requested the 'entire Deal Investigation file,' which should have included the LaBerge memorandum." --- Kim Worth, attorney for Stacey Kalberman

Now that makes more sense. And Olens is in trouble.

honested
honested

@Point 

Look at the top of your power bill to answer that question.

Point
Point

@lithoniaguy so that's why it is imperative that the rest of us go vote.  Vote early, vote absentee, don't wait til the last day in case something keeps you from the polls.  State elections affect your well being so much more than presidential elections.

PoliticalOutsider
PoliticalOutsider

EdUdork

How does reporting the fact that taxpayers have paid out $3+M for Deal's ethics problems constitute campaigning by the AJC? Let's be a big boy here. Those who caused the problem have to take ownership. You can't blame Obama, Harry Reid or the AJC.

How does reporting the fact that Sam Olens withheld evidence in a civic trial constitute campaigning by the AJC? Let's be a big boy here. Those who caused the problem have to take ownership.

How does reporting the fact that Deal's Chief of Staff and Deal's legal council intimidated and threatened witnesses in a civil trial and interfered with a state investigation constitute campaigning by the AJC. Let's be a big boy, edUdork! You are such a loser.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@blah blah blah And just think, David Ralston ran against the former AG and lost!  Think what a pickle we'd be in if he won!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Jke We were not able to hear all the facts because of the subversion of the process!  By the governor's office and the AG, no less!

Rugah
Rugah

@MiltonMan And that exonerates the current crooked Repub Gov how?

Nobody_Knows
Nobody_Knows

@MiltonMan

Milton man had volatile relationship with call girl tied to Google exec's death

Say what...........

honested
honested

@MiltonMan 

Oh I remember.

Steady economic growth. Three automobile manufacturing plants running three shifts. The best anti-predatory lending law in the Country. Fully staffed schools with reducing class sizes. 

Of course, we weren't under the sway of 'supply side mythology' then so I can see why you people are confused.

Rugah
Rugah

@MiltonMan Ding Ding Ding Ding.  I win $100.  I knew Obama's name would get thrown in this.

honested
honested

@MiltonMan 

Well, milty, at least deal will still have his record to run on..........

Good luck with that.

honested
honested

@GaPatriot 

Excellent question.

The answer will probably be revealed in the eventual trial.

DS
DS

@Jack_Republican

No one to blame but Nathan Deal. His dishonesty, incompetence and corruption have put this race in play.

honested
honested

@fatleo 

Looks like the tiny dog is chomping at the bit.

That or he hopes for a State Supreme Court appointment so he can have the authority to ignore Court rules as well as case law and find everyone he likes without fault.

HueyMahl
HueyMahl

@DS Olens is spinning as fast as he can.

Rugah
Rugah

@honested @MiltonMan Good answer honested.  And it's not a liberal lie either.  Just check the history books.  People so quick to tag everything negative because it's a "lib".  If a "lib" was putting out a fire on their house, they would say the "lib" was trying to drown them.  If the "lib" was trying to save them giving mouth to mouth, they would say the "lib" was trying to rape them. Sad.  I judge people by their actions and their results, not by the screwed up parties they represent.

td1234
td1234

@DS Please, Carter and the Democrats had to have something to run on so this is their issue since they can not run on philosophy in Georgia because they are on the wrong side of all the issues with the general public. 

HueyMahl
HueyMahl

@honested @fatleo I thought td stood for "tiny dong"?  That would help explain his pathological need to overcompensate.

td1234
td1234

@honested @fatleo Well make your case big boy. Point out the case law and the rules I have ignored in making my arguments? It is time to put up or shut up. 

honested
honested

@td1234 @DS 

Philosophy?

How about function?

Deal cannot run on his record, because it is clearly absent.

Add in a record of corruption that is slowly being exposed to full view and a clear, obvious choice between a failed past and a brighter future becomes obvious.

honested
honested

@td1234 @honested @fatleo 

You pull homilies out of the air and have the level of arrogance to believe it is somehow true.

Let's give this a couple of weeks and see what prevails.

td1234
td1234

@honested Those accusation are being made by butt hurt King Roy and his Better Georgia organization. They can be taken in the same vein of thought. 

td1234
td1234

@honested Like I thought, you have nothing to dispute my arguments. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@The_Real_Centrist @td1234 Hahaha!  That Luckovich is sure smart!  A new word for our dictionary is right!


I had a funny dream years ago about a new disease sweeping the country.  It was called the gingrich.  It consisted of a hard heart, sexual infidelity, two facedness, and compulsive lies paired with helmet head and a wildly distorted sense of intelligence and importance.  I was literally laughing when I woke up!

honested
honested

@td1234 @honested 

I give you apples and you throw oranges.

What have deal and the republican cabal done FOR Georgia in the last 4 years?

honested
honested

@td1234 @honested 

You have NO arguments!

You seem to be supremely convinced that your OPINIONS supersede the need for LOGIC.

This ain't the paulding county republiklan meeting!!

Rugah
Rugah

@honested @td1234 Hey honested, whenever you ask a question about republican rule in GA, you will get a F**K OBAMA response. No need to ask.  They will see Deal pissing in the grass and argue that he's keeping GA green.