So perhaps he didn’t use the word “liar”, but consider the words that were used by a Fulton County Superior Court Judge to describe the Executive Secretary of our state ethics commission, as well as her actions:
- Dishonest - Secrecy
- Non-transparent - Document-hiding
- Appallingly - Injustice
- Flagrant Disregard - Undermining of Confidence
“Liar” doesn’t appear in those words, but it’s not a stretch to say the word could have easily been used within the shocking ruling. Perhaps at today’s hastily called special meeting of the ethics commission these harsh words will lead to what we at Common Cause Georgia have called for since June – the termination or resignation of Holly LaBerge. We have called publicly not once, but twice for LaBerge’s resignation or termination. We’ve also long called for substantive reform of the ethics commission, and while comprehensive reform will require action from the state legislature, a change in leadership must take place now to ensure effectiveness of future, structural upgrades to the agency.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Judge Ural Glanville handed down sanctions damning LaBerge, the current Executive Secretary of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission; ordering her to personally pay a fine of $10,000 for failing to cooperate in discovery during the Kalberman trial.
The judge was straightforward and firm in his nine-page order detailing the misconduct by both Ms. LaBerge and the Attorney General’s office (who he also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine). In her testimony, LaBerge pointed her finger at Brian Webb and the AG’s office, claiming it was their responsibility to make sure Kalberman’s team received the bombshell memo she kept locked in a drawer in her office for two years. The judge, however, was unmoved. “Rather than erring on the side of transparency and a fair resolution of the legal issues raised in this matter, the Department chose nondisclosure and Defendant LaBerge chose, purportedly for her own personal reasons, secrecy and document-hiding.”
He “is extremely troubled by the behavior of Defendant LaBerge, who has been dishonest and non-transparent throughout these proceedings.” He reiterated that point later on in the order, in describing the scope and long-term effect of this misconduct which he argued “not only amounts to a flagrant disregard for the basic rules governing litigation and the fair resolution of legal disputes in the State of Georgia, but also an injustice and an undermining of confidence imposed by the citizens of the State of Georgia in the legal system…most appallingly, Defendant LaBerge, who has repeatedly proven herself to be dishonest and non-transparent.”
When asked by the AJC what he thought of the decision, Georgia State University Law Professor and director of the National Institute for Teaching Ethics & Professionalism, Clark Cunningham, observed, “The judge clearly wants to send a message to the ethics commission and the attorney general about their unethical conduct.”
When current chair of the commission Hillary Stringfellow was asked to justify how the commission could keep LaBerge employed, she hesitantly responded “I would rather not respond to that question right now.”
Today could truly be the start of the changes we need to have an independent and honest state ethics commission – and that’s no lie!