Ex-ethics chief says she was sold out for campaign job

The former head of the state ethics commission accuses the panel’s former chairman in new court filings of conspiring with an attorney for high-profile Republicans to force her out in exchange for a job with Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

In an amended complaint in her whistle-blower suit against the state, former commission director Stacey Kalberman claims that former commission chairman Patrick Millsaps contacted Randy Evans about campaign work while the commission was investigating Evans’ client, Gov. Nathan Deal. Evans also served as an attorney for Gingrich.

Kalberman’s new complaint was filed Friday in Fulton County Superior Court.

Evans said Kalberman’s charges amount to a “fantasy,” while Millsaps said it is “absolutely a false allegation, and the more that she amends her complaint, the more frivolous the lawsuit of a disgruntled employee becomes.”

The state has asked a judge to dismiss the complaint. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Sam Olens, who will defend the state in the case, said they are reviewing the new complaint.

Millsaps announced plans to resign from the commission in August 2011, but served until Deal replaced him in November 2011. By late December, Millsaps was working for Gingrich’s presidential campaign and eventually became chief of staff for the former U.S. House speaker’s bid for the Republican nomination.

Kalberman and her deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, were forced from their jobs in June 2011 after Millsaps and the commission, claiming a looming budget crisis, moved to slash Kalberman’s salary and eliminate Streicker’s position.

Kalberman and Streicker claim in separate lawsuits that their ouster was related to their investigation into Deal’s 2010 campaign for governor.

The complaints against Deal accused him of personally profiting from his campaign’s aircraft rentals, of improperly using state campaign funds for legal bills related to a federal ethics investigation and of accepting campaign contributions that exceed limits.

Deal was cleared of major violations in July and agreed to pay $3,350 in administrative fees to settle the others.

In October 2010, according to Kalberman’s lawsuit, she and Streicker sought permission to subpoena Deal’s campaign for records. The suit says the subpoenas were necessary because Evans “ignored” a request for the documents. She accuses Millsaps of refusing to sign the subpoenas and claims Millsaps in early 2011 called Evans to ask for a job with Gingrich’s presidential campaign, which was formally launched in May 2011.

Kalberman’s suit points to an interview Millsaps gave NBC in March 2012. The report on NBC’s political blog says:

“The one type of race I have never been involved in as a volunteer was a presidential race,” Millsaps recalls telling one of Gingrich’s close advisers, Randy Evans, in early 2011. “I told him if there is ever a way I can help in a meaningful way, let me know.”

In early 2011, Evans was already representing Deal before the ethics commission. Millsaps was then serving on the commission.

Millsaps told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that the NBC blog misquoted him.

“I was misquoted in that article, and the timeline was wrong,” Millsaps said, adding that he never directly reached out to Evans for a job.

It was late 2009 or 2010, he said, before there was a campaign, that he expressed interest in helping Gingrich should he run.

Evans, too, said he does not remember Millsaps asking him for a job.

Evans said he knows it was reported that Millsaps approached him, but said, “I really don’t remember.”

Evans said while he was always a Gingrich confidant, he did not become directly involved in the campaign until November or December 2011.

Evans, too, called Kalberman a “disgruntled employee” and said she and Streicker are in “fantasy land.”

Kalberman, in an interview Wednesday, said Millsaps’ argument that the restructuring at the commission was budget-related is a farce.

She said she had plans to make the cuts Millsaps believed were necessary, but he never gave her the chance to present them. Instead, she said, Millsaps insisted Kalberman resigned in an emotional meeting in May 2011. She denied that and refused to step down. She eventually agreed to resign under pressure.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.