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First Lawsuit Against Ethics Agency Costs State $1.1 Million; Next Trial Set for June

State Ethics Commission Deputy Sherilyn Streicker, left, listens as the Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman speaks during a commission meeting where she agreed to resign from her position. Photo: Alison Church/Freelance. June 17, 2011.
State Ethics Commission Deputy Sherilyn Streicker, left, listens as the Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman speaks during a commission meeting where she agreed to resign from her position. Photo: Alison Church/Freelance. June 17, 2011.
Credit Alison Church for Daily Report
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The final cost for the state in the whistleblower case of former ethics commission chief Stacey Kalberman was $1.15 million dollars, according to a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Last month, a jury awarded Kalberman more than $725,000 plus legal fees for wrongful termination. Those legal fees ultimately tallied nearly $425,000. Kalberman alleged she was forced out for too aggressively investigating Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Cheryl Legare is an attorney for two other former ethics commission staffers who are bringing or plan to bring similar lawsuits against the state - former Kalberman deputy Sherilyn Streicker and former commission attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein.

“I think the jury got it right and I think the state could have anticipated what happened there,” said said Legare. “The fiscally responsible thing would have been to resolve the case before allowing it to go to the jury.” 

In addition to Lagree’s two clients, another former staffer – media specialist John Hair – is bringing a lawsuit as well.

“I believe the end result will be the same in the remaining three case if we have to go to the jury so the state needs to make whatever decision it makes based on the fact that I believe this case, every time it’s tried, will come out the same way,” said Legare. 

The Attorney General’s office, which is defending the state in the case, has yet to return a request for comment. 

Deal, who is running for reelection this year, has repeatedly denied involvement in any of the cases, saying it’s a personnel matter within the commission. Notably, the governor appoints three of the five ethics commission board members. Shortly after the Kalberman verdict, Deal called the state ethics system “broken” and proposed an overhaul of commission.

Pending Cases Against Ethics Commission:

  • Sherilyn Streicker, former deputy director – Represented by the Buckley Law Firm. Due for trial June 13.
  • John Hair, former commission media specialist – Represented by Thrasher Liss & Smith. Tentatively due for trial in October.
  • Elisabeth Murray-Obertein, former commission attorney – Represented by the Buckley Law Firm. Yet to file lawsuit.