The state ethics commission has done no work on any of its 169 open cases in nearly a year, the commission director said Thursday.
In a related move, commissioners Thursday dismissed a complaint against two insurance companies accused of funnelling illegal cash into the 2010 gubernatorial campaign of John Oxendine. Commissioners made no determination on the validity of the complaint, which was filed in 2009; they dismissed it because their staff had made so little progress on it.
“If that’s not toothless, I don’t know what is,” said Wyc Orr, a former state representative and current vice chairman of Common Cause Georgia.
The news comes at the beginning of a busy election year in which every statewide office and every legislative seat is on the ballot.
Executive Secretary Holly LaBerge said blame for the lost year rests with former staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein.
“Without an attorney that is actively and competently working on the cases, there is nothing moving forward with a case,” she said. “No cases were investigated or audited or dismissed.”
Commissioners fired Murray-Obertein in January following accusations that she was intoxicated at work. She gave despositions damaging to LaBerge in pending whistle blower cases filed by the former director and her assistant claiming commissioners fired them for pursuing an ethics investigation in the 2010 campaign of Gov. Nathan Deal.
“Ms. LaBerge’s comments are patently false and defamatory,” said Brian Sutherland, Murray-Obertein’s lawyer. He did not elaborate.
Commissioners appeared unsurprised by the news of the immobile backlog of cases.
“We certainly are intimately familiar with the reasons for (the backlog),” Chairman Kevin Abernethy said.