• Complaints allege former state ethics leader stalled investigation into Abrams campaign

    By: Richard Belcher

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - Records released by the state ethics commission confirm Channel 2 Action News' reports that the former director of the commission was accused of having pornography on office computers.

    [READ MORE: State ethics director resigns after porn, misconduct allegations]

    Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher learned there are even more serious accusations against Stefan Ritter, who officially resigned from his position last week.

    Belcher first broke the story of the investigation and now he has obtained letters from senior staff members at the commission that describe the complaints.

    The letters accuse then-executive secretary Ritter of delaying investigations of political campaigns, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

    But Ritter still negotiated a $45,000 settlement to resign.

    "In our opinion, this was a situation where we have to do everything in our power to protect the commission, protect the agency," ethics chairman Jake Evans said last Friday after announcing the resignation deal for Ritter.

    At the time, reporters hadn't been given the stunning accusations against Ritter. The accusations are contained in three letters written to the commission in mid-December.

    Among the accusers are deputy executive secretary Bethany Whetzel and deputy executive secretary 
    Robert Lane, the two most senior officials who worked directly under Ritter at the ethics commission.


    TRENDING STORIES:


    The accusation of viewing pornography on office computers -- first reported by Channel 2 lain January -- was included in all three complaints.

    An IT expert said he found pornographic pictures after Ritter asked him to wipe clean a state-owned tablet.

    [READ MORE: State ethics director put on paid leave over porn, misconduct allegations]

    Both of Ritter's top deputies also accused him of holding up an investigation of the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams or related campaign groups.

    Whetzel wrote: "Mr. Ritter was visibly disappointed that the violations we uncovered related to the Abrams campaign and directed us not to proceed."

    Lane wrote that Ritter ordered work to stop on the Abrams investigation because, "Ms. Abrams was going to be the next governor."

    "An independent body should come in and look at this. Anytime anything like this is dealing with such strong allegations against a state employee, we should have an entire audit of that agency or department," said Sara Henderson, the executive director of Common Cause Georgia.

    Evans does not have any second thoughts about the settlement.

    He said that settling and getting a release from Ritter, "allowed for an expedited resolution, greatly reduced the commission’s exposure and reduced the legal spend associated with the independent investigation."

    Next Up: