Political Insider

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Another lawsuit from ex-ethics staffer is in the works

Another former Georgia ethics staffer sends word she is planning a lawsuit against the ethics commission.

Former staffer Elisabeth Murray-Obertein plans to file her own lawsuit against the agency, according to her attorney, Cheryl Legare. The news comes days after a jury sided with Stacey Kalberman, the commission's former director, in a lawsuit claiming she was forced out for too aggressively investigating a complaint stemming from Gov. Nathan Deal's 2010 campaign.

It would be the fourth whistle-blower case filed against the embattled agency, and an unwelcome development for a governor facing re-election against opponents who have taken up ethics as a mantra. Deal on Monday abandoned his attempts to distance himself from the agency and instead called for a "comprehensive" overhaul.

Former staffers Sherilyn Streicker and John Hair have filed similar lawsuits that are now winding their way through the courts. Neither is on the trial calendar yet, though, and they may not make it that far. As noted earlier, several jurors polled after the Kalberman case openly questioned why state attorneys didn't settle before bringing to trial.

Murray-Obertein's case could prove more complicated than some of the others.

She was the commission's top lawyer and, in sworn testimony, accused director Holly LaBerge of bragging that Deal "owes" for making the most serious complaints against him go away. (Deal and LaBerge have denied involvement.) She was also fired in January, shortly after a police officer said she appeared intoxicated at work.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.