Stacey Kalberman, the former director of the Georgia State Ethics Commission, has been awarded $700,000 in compensation after a jury found that she was discriminated against for investigating complaints against Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.
The jury found that Kalberman’s salary was cut, and that her deputy director, Sherilyn Streicker, was fired after they conducted investigations into Governor Deal’s campaign reports and financial disclosures from 2010. According to the lawsuit, Kalberman presented draft subpoenas in the Deal investigation to the board of commissioners for the Georgia State Ethics Commission at a May 3, 2011 meeting, asking the commissioners to authorize the issuance of the subpoenas. Kalberman then allegedly began to notice changes in her employment, including her salary cut and the elimination of her deputy’s position.
Georgia’s current Ethics Director, Holly LaBerge, also testified at trial, stating that she was contacted by a member of Governor Deal’s office just a short time later in mid-May 2011, asking if she’d be interested in taking over Kalberman’s job. LaBerge was then contacted by the board of commissioners about the job, all of which occurred before the opening had been publicly posted and before Kalberman’s salary was cut.
The Georgia Attorney General had defended the State in the case, claiming that the salary cut and position elimination were both the result of state budget concerns. The jury, however, agreed with Kalberman and her attorney, Kim Worth, who argued that the decisions were in direct retaliation for Kalberman’s zealous investigation into the complaints against Deal, and awarded her $700,000 in damages, as well as attorneys’ fees and back pay.
Kalberman’s former deputy, Streicker, is also suing the state for workplace retaliation.
Deal has been cleared of any major violations in that investigation, but he was forced to pay $3,350 in administrative fees. Deal is a Republican, and he is seeking re-election in the state’s gubernatorial race this year.
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