Embattled ethics agency hires attorney to help run day-to-day operations

Georgia’s state ethics commission took the unprecedented move on Thursday to hire an Atlanta lawyer to help the embattled agency carry out its day-to-day functions as it faces federal scrutiny.

The five-member board voted unanimously to tap Robert Constantine, a former administrative law judge with the worker’s compensation board, to help run the organization.

Commission chair Kevin Abernethy said he would be paid $4,000 a month between January and May to “ensure the agency is operating at a high level” ahead of a busy campaign season. He said the funds would come from existing accounts.

“It’s plain to everybody that the agency has a number of challenges the past six to nine months and the receiver will be in place to carry out the duties they need to,” Abernethy said.

Two top ethics employees last week were served with federal subpoenas seeking documents related to a probe of campaign finance allegations against Gov. Nathan Deal. Three other former staffers also received the subpoenas, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

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It was clear that Constantine is an unknown to some of the board’s members. Commissioner Hillary Stringfellow said she hadn’t even seen his resume. But Abernethy said he was confident Constantine could serve as a consultant, an intermediary and even a referee in disputes involving the commission.

“He has done a number of things both in and out of government, but he is presently completely independent from any of the agency business,” said Abernethy. “He is truly an outside person who has expressed a desire to help us.”

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