State auditor to take on ethics investigation with ties to governor


ATLANTA - The chairman of Georgia's Ethics Commission has now decided the state auditor should investigate allegations of corruption within the ethics office.

The ethics commission originally voted last month to ask the attorney general to conduct an outside investigation.

Using the auditor keeps taxpayers from having to foot the additional bill.

Channel 2 Action News has been investigating allegations that an ethics official directed staffers to destroy records, and bragged about making the governor's pending ethics case go away.

The state auditor answers to the general assembly, not the governor. The auditor does not have the power to bring criminal charges.

In a statement from the chairman of State Ethics Board, Channel 2 Action News was told:

"Today the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission announced that the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts has agreed to conduct an internal investigation and performance audit of the agency.

"Georgia law provides that indications of mismanagement or misconduct by an employee of a state agency warrant investigation by the state auditor, see O.C.G.A. §§ 50-6-28, and accordingly the auditor was requested to do so.

"This request was made in lieu of the earlier announced intention to request the Attorney General appoint an investigator. Because the Department of Audits and Accounts is state-funded, this internal investigation and performance audit will not incur additional taxpayer expense.

"Out of respect for the integrity of the pending investigation and audit, the Commission will decline all requests to comment further."

The commission had voted to seek an independent probe after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that current and former commission employees have alleged in sworn testimony that commission executive director Holly LaBerge ordered documents removed from the case file of the commission’s investigation into Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign for governor. They also claim LaBerge bragged that Deal “owed” her for scuttling the case against him.

The governor has said he received no special treatment in the handling of the case, and LaBerge has testified that she did not interfere in it.

Channel 2 Action News

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