Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Top pick for Atlanta's ethics job withdraws name after legislative gridlock, ridiculous power struggle

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 at 9:35 AM

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Thanks to a power struggle at City Hall, Stacey Kalberman, the former director of the Georgia Ethics Commission who left the state agency after pushing for subpoenas for Gov. Nathan Deal's campaign, won't become Atlanta's top ethics official.

Kalberman, whose nomination had been held for at least one Atlanta City Council meeting, had grown tired of waiting for councilmembers to act. Legislation that would grant councilmembers the power to hire the director of the ethics board didn't help matters. (Currently, the ethics director position is independent of the city council and mayor.) Hmmm, who came up with that stellar plan?:

The legislation, written by City Councilman H. Lamar Willis, would have required the ethics board to submit its top three choices for executive director. The City Council would then decide the winner. Currently, the board only sends only one name to the Council, which can vote the nomination up or down.

A brief note: Willis last year was slapped with a $3,500 fine for accepting donations from city vendors to his private foundation. The councilman has insisted that the proposal has nothing to do with his fine or Kalberman, but is merely a check on the officer's power. Please pardon the interruption.

John Lewis Jr., a top lawyer at Coca-Cola Co. who helped select Kalberman as the nominee, called the changes "an astonishingly bad idea."

"The ethics board is not susceptible to the whims of those who are currently in office," Lewis said. "I would urge you not to insert politics into selecting an ethics officer."

But Willis said the changes would help the City Council oversee important actions in Atlanta.

"We're not taking power away," he said. "This legislation really only speaks to the hiring."

Interestingly, Willis chose to withdraw his proposal last night — shortly after Kalberman withdrew her name.

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