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Friday, June 6, 2014

State could reach $1 million settlement in second ethics lawsuit tied to Deal campaign

A second whistle-blower lawsuit tied to Gov. Nathan Deal's 2010 gubernatorial campaign could be settled out of court for a seven-figure sum.

Sherilyn Streicker, the state ethics commission's former deputy director, may reach a $1 million settlement with the state to avoid a heated courtroom battle. Her whistle-blower lawsuit, the second of its kind in 2014, accuses the state of cutting her position as part of an attempt to issue subpoenas related to Deal's campaign expenses. In a July 2012 settlement, the governor was cleared of major violations and agreed to pay $3,350 in administrative fees.

The AJC and WSB-TV, which confirmed the potential settlement through different sources, report that lawyers on both sides are "finalizing details and paperwork" for the agreement. The AJC's Gold Dome reporter Aaron Gould Sheinin offers an update on the settlement:

Attorneys on both sides of the case declined to comment Thursday. Once finalized, the Streicker settlement will bring to more than $2 million the total cost to the state from lawsuits against the ethics commission, now known as the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Streicker's job was eliminated in May 2011 after she and then-commission director Stacey Kalberman investigated Gov. Nathan Deal's 2010 campaign for governor. Weeks after the pair presented commissioners draft subpoenas for records related to the investigation, Kalberman's salary was cut deeply and Streicker was fired.

Two months ago, a jury awarded $700,000 to Kalberman after her attorneys argued that she was squeezed out of her post for trying to probe Deal's campaign. With back pay and attorney fees, the ruling ended up costing the state approximately $1.3 million.

"I believe the end result will be the same in the remaining three case if we have to go to the jury so the state needs to make whatever decision it makes based on the fact that I believe this case, every time it's tried, will come out the same way," Streicker attorney Cheryl Legare recently told WABE before the settlement reports surfaced.

A third whistle-blower lawsuit brought forward by former ethics commissioner computer specialist John Hair is currently scheduled for trial in October.

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