Stacey Kalberman, former Director of the Georgia Ethics Commission, is currently under investigation, from a complaint filed on March 23, 2017. The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (GGTCFC), which was commonly known as the Georgia Ethics Commission, received the complaint from Mr. Amos King, a retired vet of Stone Mountain, alleging that Kalberman violated the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act.
Kalberman is accused of illegally lobbying at the Georgia State Capitol on behalf of the DeKalb Board of Ethics. Now that the GGTCFC has received an official complaint, and have determined there is sufficient cause to proceed forward, Kalberman has been notified of the complaint and the official investigation has begun. AllOnGeorgia has reached out to Mr. King to get additional information since this determination, however he declined to comment.
There is one additional complaint pending with the GGTCFC, which was filed by Ms. Rhea Jones. It alleges similar misconduct in an official capacity by Kalberman, however there has been no action taken as of yet that AllOnGeorgia is aware of at this time.
The DeKalb Policy Committee met during the 2017 Legislative Session and engaged in heated debate about the merits of the constitutionality of the Ethics Board, as well as proposed legislation that would address some of the concerns that arose from several lawsuits and complaints. It is reported that Kalberman was present at several of those committee meetings in an official capacity and played an active role in the process of debating and deciding on the proposals. That directly violates the County ordinance that states, “The ethics officer shall not be involved in partisan or nonpolitical activities or the political affairs of DeKalb County.” She has since denied these allegations of an infraction of the State Ethics Act.
According to O.C.G.A § 21-5-70 and § 21-5-71, a lobbyist is defined as someone who is compensated specifically to promote or oppose the passage of any pending legislation. The language of the law provides many exemptions to which an individual would not have to register as a lobbyist. However, there is a burden to provide evidence that shows that not only did she engage in the political process of official DeKalb County business, but also operated in an compensated capacity as a lobbyist without being registered, which would be in violation of State law and DeKalb County ordinance.
I conclude that proves Kalberman broke the ordinance while acting in the official capacity of Ethics Officer of DeKalb County by attending the meetings of the DeKalb Policy Committee during the legislative session. The State Ethics Commission will have the final say on whether she violated State law, however.
But her emails? (If you’re reading on mobile and cannot view the PDF reader, click here.)
An Open Records Request shows a series of emails that Kalberman sent to four select members of the Dekalb Board of Commissioners, Jeff Radar, Nancy Jester, Steve Bradshaw, and Kathie Gannon. She noted that “Commissioner Radar asked that [she] draft a letter for consideration regarding the ethics bill that is being proposed,” as seen in the email chain.
Commissioner Gannon sent a follow up email to all the County Commissioners, including Gregory Adams, Mereda Johnson, and Larry Johnson, that includes the original content of Kalberman’s email. However, the beginning of the email states that the Commissioner, not Kalberman, wrote the letter and drafted it for consideration before the Board of Commissioners. Clearly, Kalberman produced the document.
Assuming this to be after a vote of support and endorsement, the Presiding Officer of the DeKalb Board of Commissioner sends correspondence to the DeKalb Senate and DeKalb House Delegation leadership, including additional information directly from the email that was originally created by Kalberman.
As discussed in a previous article on AllOnGeorgia, there has to be a level of accountability to address the direct infraction of this ordinance. The DeKalb Board of Ethics will also be hearing a complaint that has been brought forth in regards to this infraction, as is reflected in the minutes of the last meeting, April 20, 2017.
Scott Bonder, who is a DeKalb County commercial litigation attorney, resigned from the Board of Ethics due to what GeorgiaPol contributer, George Chidi, calls a “legislative attack.” I conclude that this is only making the process of ethical government and transparency increasingly difficult. As John Jackson, the President of the Young Democrats of DeKalb County, stated in response to these complaints, “You want to hold all public officials accountable for their actions. But you have to hold everyone to the same standard and not choose favorites.”
Though the emails show that Kalberman has violated the county ordinance when it comes to her official job, and should be reprimanded in the least, this is troubling and reflective of an even deeper cultural conflict that seems to reemerge in politics time and time again.
“DeKalb has its issues, as do many counties,” Kalberman wrote. “Nevertheless, the greatest problems have been caused by a handful of individuals whose loyalties were aligned with their own personal interest and not the interest of the county. It is DeKalb’s great misfortune that those individuals have primarily been in leadership positions.”
Public officials should not be able to define how they govern themselves and ensure political gain from an non-transparent process and those who are to hold those public officials accountable should not be trying to influence any legislation that is being debated, especially when it relates to the very body that employs them. It appears as being disingenuous. As corruption becomes more mainstream, our communities cannot help but to be skepticalwhen these stories become more revealing.
As more updates are released, updates through AllOnGeorgia will become available.