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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Ethics case verdict could impact governor's race

Nathan Deal

Nathan Deal

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David Pennington

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Jason Carter

A jury verdict in the trial of Georgia’s former top ethics official will cost the state $700,000. But political foes of Nathan Deal say it could cost the governor his job.

A Fulton County jury awarded Stacey Kalberman the sum Friday in a whistleblower suit, where she alleged she was pushed out of her job at the state ethics commission for investigating Deal’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson said the governor is not implicated in the case.

“(Friday’s) verdict centered around an internal dispute between former employees and former commissioners of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, which is a body that operates independently of elected officials. There’s a reason no member of the governor’s staff was called to testify: because there’s no connection to this office,” he said. “After the most exhaustive review of such a case in Georgia history, commissioners last year ruled that the charges levied against Deal for Governor lacked merit. Those decisions are rendered by the commission members, not commission staff, after exhaustive study. As such, who the commission employed as staff had no relevance to the Deal for Governor case.”

But gubernatorial hopeful David Pennington slammed Deal in a statement following the verdict.

“Nathan Deal’s abuses of power, ethics flaws, and strong-arm, good-old-boy politics no longer have a place in our state,” said Pennington, Dalton’s mayor who is one of two men to challenge Deal in the May GOP primary. “If we, Republicans, actually want to defeat Jason Carter this November, we must ensure an ethical conservative is on the top of the ticket. I am the proven conservative who can defeat Carter.”

Carter, the sole Democrat in the race, said: “This whistle-blower trial opened a new window into the unethical culture of Gov. Deal’s administration. Between this trial, the ongoing federal grand jury inquiry, and the new revelations that the governor used his official taxpayer-paid staff to advance his private business dealings, it is clear that this governor doesn’t think that the rules apply to him.

“We need leaders we can trust to put Georgia citizens ahead of their own personal gain, and we need an ethics commission that is free to do its job without fear of this sort of politically motivated retaliation,” added the state senator who is the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

Georgia voter

technology upgrades

Georgia’s Secretary of State’s Office announced a digital upgrade, which allows online voter registration and gives people access to information on the go.

“In 2012, I worked with legislative leaders to craft a law that would allow for online voter registration. We did this because Georgian’s deserve to be able to register to vote or change their information with as much ease as possible,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said when announcing the launch last week. “This not only will provide benefits to the voter, but also for all 159 Georgia counties.”

Residents must have a valid Georgia driver’s license to use the online voter registration system, which allows counties to process new registrations in the same way that the Department of Driver Services sends electronic information. The process creates efficiencies that will save time and money, the press release said.

“I want to personally thank the Department of Driver Services for their assistance in this operation,” Kemp said. “They have been a great partner.”

The office also launched a mobile application that gives people access not only to voter registration but all of the department’s information on its “My Voter Page” on its website.

The “My Voter Page” was launched in 2010, giving Georgia voters the ability to view their own sample ballot, find early voting and election day polling locations, check voter registration status and track the status of an absentee ballot. Android and Apple uses can search for “GA Votes” in the app store.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Camie Young can be reached via email at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.

For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/politics.