Third former ethics employee sues embattled agency as whistle-blower

by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:


ATLANTA - A third former State Ethics Commission employee is now suing the embattled agency and its director.
John Hair says his boss, Holly LaBerge, made him destroy records in an ethics case against Gov. Nathan Deal and then fired him after he voiced concern about the practice.
In an interview with Channel 2 Action News last fall, Hair told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer he endured what amounted to retaliation and a hostile work environment, after refusing to continue destroying records and hiding details from the public.
"If I didn't say something about it, that isn't going to help [affect] change," said Hair. "There's too many people that look the other way in situations like this."
At the time of the interview, Hair was just a witness for two former state ethics employees suing the commission, former Executive Director Stacey Kalberman and her deputy, Sherilyn Streicker.
Kalberman and Streicker had been building an ethics case against Gov. Nathan Deal when they both suddenly lost their jobs.
They filed lawsuits, alleging the governor orchestrated it to avoid hefty fines and possible criminal allegations.
"I think they had sufficient information and proof to move forward with an investigation on the governor, and they were ready to sign the subpoena," said Hair, who was not employed with the commission at the time.
Instead, Deal's office recruited Holly LaBerge to head the agency. Then the case against the governor eventually collapsed; a proposed $70,000 in fines settled for $3,350.
"They've said something along the lines of 'there are no documents that are missing or have been altered', and that is absolutely not true," said Hair.
Hair says he altered records in the Deal case dozens of times, at LaBerge's direction, and that she ordered staffers to use personal email addresses to keep records hidden from the public.
Later, Hair says LaBerge asked him to alter records relating to her predecessor Kalberman.
"And that's when I flat out just said no," Hair told Fleischer, adding that LaBerge fired him shortly thereafter.
Hair's new lawsuit claims LaBerge retaliated against him as a whistleblower.
"I hope that Stacey Kalberman and Ms. Streicker are vindicated, I'm hoping for myself to be vindicated," added Hair.
Hair also backed up the former ethics commission attorney's claims that she overheard LaBerge brag that the governor "owed her" for scuttling his case.
Laberge has denied all of the allegations.
The Kalberman and Streicker cases are set for trial this Spring.

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