published Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Subpoenas related to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's ethics complaints

ATLANTA — Two employees of the state ethics commission have received federal grand jury subpoenas seeking documents regarding ethics complaints involving Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, according to two people with knowledge of the case.

The commission's executive secretary, Holly LaBerge, received a subpoena Wednesday, a person with direct knowledge of the case told The Associated Press. The AP obtained a copy of the federal grand jury subpoena for staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein from a person familiar with the case. The two individuals spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Deal's attorney Randy Evans said the inquiry does not involve the governor and likely includes allegations that documents in the case held by the agency may have been altered or destroyed.

"We're not involved in this," Evans said by phone. "If documents have been removed, altered or destroyed then there should be an investigation. That's what we've said from the beginning."

LaBerge declined comment and referred questions to her attorney, who did not respond to messages seeking comment. Murray-Obertein's attorney Cheryl Legare also declined comment, as did Bob Page, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Atlanta.

The subpoenas show federal authorities want any documents related to an investigation by the ethics commission of Deal's campaign finances and disclosures during his 2010 run for governor, but they reveal nothing about the scope of the inquiry.

Deal, a Republican, was cleared of major charges in the state ethics commission probe. He agreed in a July 2012 settlement to pay $3,350 in administrative fees to resolve violations of campaign finance and disclosure laws.

The commission's handling of the Deal investigation has been at the center of two lawsuits by former employees who allege retaliation. Former commission executive secretary Stacey Kalberman and her deputy Sherry Streicker claim the ethics commission cut Kalberman's salary by about 30 percent and eliminated Streicker's position as they were seeking to gain approval from commissioners to issue subpoenas in the Deal case.

Sworn statements in those lawsuits have included allegations that the governor's office helped recruit the current executive secretary and that the executive secretary later claimed the governor "owes her" for taking care of the complaints.

Deal has said he doesn't know the executive secretary and doesn't owe her anything.

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