Governor Deal Renews Call for Tightening Whistleblower Rules

Jun 17, 2014

Governor Nathan Deal Monday reiterated state lawmakers should consider limiting who qualifies as a whistleblower. The comments come just days after the state agreed to spend more than $1.8 million to settle three remaining whistle-blower complaints by former state ethics employees. The employees alleged retaliation in connection with the handling of an ethics investigation involving Governor Nathan Deal and his 2010 campaign.

Governor Deal declined to comment on the settlement agreements beyond a statement released by his spokesman Brian Robinson on Friday.

“We issued a statement on that, and I think the statement specifies our feelings on it.”

In the statement, Robinson said, “Whatever the merits of the cases, today’s settlement shows once again the utter dysfunction of the campaign finance commission, which is supposed to enforce our campaign and lobbying laws in a quick and efficient manner,”

Credit Marylee Williams/WABE

In the meantime, Deal renewed his call for the state legislature to examine Georgia law pertaining to whistleblowers.

“None of us want a situation where you have any agency within state government where someone cannot be fired for legitimate reasons and could seek the protection of the whistleblower statute as a defense to their being removed from their position. From that standpoint it needs to be looked at.”

And Deal went on to say.... “I do not intend in any way to tamper with the general purpose behind a whistleblower statute. I think it serves a very useful and good purpose.”

Under the agreements, former ethics commission deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, will receive $1 million dollars. The state also plans to pay former IT specialist John Hair more than $400,000 and former staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein more than $477,000. The agreements come after a jury verdict in favor of former executive secretary Stacey Kalberman, who claimed her pay was reduced and Streicker's position eliminated for investigating Deal.

Ethics commission officials have denied any retaliation or misconduct.  Governor Deal has said he was not involved and last July the ethics commission cleared him of any major wrongdoing. Instead, Deal had to pay more than $3,350 related to "technical defects" in campaign finance disclosure reports.