AG’s office pays fine in state ethics commission lawsuit

Attorney General Sam Olens’ office on Tuesday paid a $10,000 fine to Fulton County Superior Court, just ahead of a judge’s deadline.

Judge Ural Glanville on Monday ordered the AG’s office to pay by Tuesday or face a contempt of court charge. Olens’ team had asked the judge to delay the payment until after any potential appeal is decided. Glanville refused.

Glanville earlier this month sanctioned both the Attorney General’s Office and former state ethics commission director Holly LaBerge and fined them $10,000 each after it was revealed that LaBerge and Olens’ staff had failed to turn over key records in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by LaBerge’s predecessor.

LaBerge, meanwhile, has filed notice with the Georgia Court of Appeals that she plans to challenge Glanville’s ruling, her attorney, Lee Parks, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. LaBerge was not required to pay the fine before that appeal is heard.

The Attorney General’s Office will also appeal, Olens spokeswoman Lauren Kane said.

The sanctions came after the AJC reported in July that top aides to Gov. Nathan Deal called and texted LaBerge in July 2012, a week before the commission dismissed major complaints against the governor’s 2010 campaign.

LaBerge has said she felt pressured by the communications from Deal Chief of Staff Chris Riley and said executive counsel Ryan Teague “threatened” the commission if the Deal cases didn’t “go away.”

But LaBerge’s memo about the calls and texts were never given to attorneys for Stacey Kalberman, who alleged in a whistleblower lawsuit that she was forced from office for investigating the Deal complaints. A jury in April awarded Kalberman $700,000 in damages and $450,000 in back pay and attorneys fees.

The Attorney General’s Office was apparently required to pay the fine, while LaBerge was not, because the two took different paths toward an appeal. Olens’ office filed a procedural motion, essentially asking Glanville to grant permission to appeal, while LaBerge’s attorneys simply notified him that they planned to appeal.