Governor fires back on ethics claim

Gov. Deal calls allegations of ethics abuse ‘unsubstantiated’

Gov. Nathan Deal said allegations that the head of Georgia’s ethics commission improperly intervened into an investigation involving an ethics complaint against him were “totally unsubstantiated and primarily false.”

He lashed out at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for reporting complaints by current and former commission employees who said Holly LaBerge ordered documents removed from the official state investigative file on Deal and met with top Deal aides while the probe was ongoing.

“I am so regretful of the decline that I have seen in the reporting by the AJC,” he said. “If they continue that downward spiral as it relates to every issue of major importance they pretty well are going to descend to the level where they can’t even claim to be a fish wrapper.”

AJC Managing Editor Bert Roughton pushed back on that assertion.

“We stand by our story,” Roughton said. “And we are disappointed that the governor failed to use this as an opportunity to address the very important issues raised by our reporting.”

LaBerge declined comment but Deal’s attorney, Randy Evans, said the five-member ethics commission and not LaBerge had the final say over the ethics complaints against Deal. He didn’t dispute claims that Deal’s staff had recruited her and added that meetings with Deal’s camp involved trying to hash out a settlement on the ethics charges.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson on Thursday called for a GBI and FBI investigation into the report, saying that “ethics enforcement in Georgia should not be biased and controlled by the very people it’s investigating.”

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