Judge hints, but doesn’t rule, that ethics commission case will go to trial

A Fulton County judge said Thursday that a jury needs to answer some questions in a lawsuit filed by the former state ethics commission director, but he stopped short of clearing the case for trial.

Judge Ural Glanville did not rule Thursday on the state’s motion to dismiss Stacey Kalberman’s suit against her former employer after nearly an hour of arguments.

Kalberman and her former top deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, filed separate suits after Streicker’s job was eliminated and Kalberman’s salary cut in 2011. The pair claim the actions were a result of their effort to issue subpoenas as part of their investigation into Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign.

Streicker’s case is set for trial Friday. Kalberman’s is scheduled to begin Feb. 14, although both dates are likely to change.

“I do think there are some factual differences that only a jury will be able to weigh out,” Glanville said. “That’s part of what a jury will probably have to weigh. I need to look at a couple other things, but that’s what I’m leaning toward right now.”

Meanwhile, Deal spoke publicly Thursday for the first time after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that he, two top aides and his private attorney have been subpoenaed to testify in Streicker’s case.

“I’m like several others that have been put on notice that we may be called,” Deal said. “If they call me, then I’ll certainly appear and I’ll testify. I don’t know that I know anything that would be relevant to that lawsuit, but I certainly will cooperate.”

In Thursday’s hearing in the Kalberman matter, the state’s attorney said Kalberman has shown no connection between the requested subpoenas in the Deal case and her salary being cut.

“We’ve got her issuing subpoenas and we’ve got statements about the budget,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Bryan Webb said, noting that Kalberman herself warned commissioners of a looming budget crunch. “Within 2 1/2 weeks of her telling the commission ‘We’re about to run about of money,’ they started making decisions about how they were going to get the budget fixed.”

Kalberman, Webb said, “doesn’t have to like how they were going to do it — neither does a jury or a judge.”

But Kalberman’s attorney, Kim Worth, told Glanville the budget argument “is a convenient excuse for what was the decision to stop the Deal investigation from happening.”

“How did (commissioners) know it was going to work out?” Worth said. “That’s a question for the jury.”