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Posted: 11:38 a.m. Monday, Sept. 30, 2013

Ethics commission calls for special investigation

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The head of Georgia’s ethics commission is accused of improperly intervening into an investigation of Gov. Nathan Deal, raising serious questions about the independence of the state panel charged with keeping watch over Georgia’s elected officials. Current and former commission employees told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that Holly LaBerge ordered documents removed from the official state investigative file on Deal and met with top aides to the Republican governor while the probe was ongoing.

By Aaron Gould Sheinin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The state ethics commission on Monday called for an independent investigation in response to a pair of lawsuits pending against the agency as well as its deepening personnel problems.

The commission wants Attorney General Sam Olens to appoint a special, outside attorney to lead the investigation. The commission faces whistleblower lawsuits by its former director and deputy, both of whom claim they were forced out for pressing an investigation into Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign.

The AJC reported earlier in September that current and former commission employees have accused agency director Holly LaBerge of interfering into the investigation, ordering documents removed from the file and bragging about how Deal “owes” her for making the cases go away.

LaBerge, in sworn testimony, has denied the allegations. Staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein has filed two human resources complaints against LaBerge and accused her of practicing law without a license.

Deal, who was accused of misusing campaign cash and of accepting contributions over the legal limit, was cleared of major charges in 2012 and ordered to pay $3,350 in administrative fees.

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