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Federal subpoenas target Gov. Deal ethics complaints

1:01 AM, Dec 13, 2013   |    comments
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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal discusses the state's options under the Affordable Health Care Act aka Obamacare.

ATLANTA -- Federal investigators have issued subpoenas looking for information about ethics complaints filed against Gov. Nathan Deal.

11Alive News has confirmed that former and current ethics commission staff have gotten subpoenas -- re-opening an investigation the commission itself had closed. The subpoenas indicate that a federal grand jury is probing the possibilities of criminal charges in the case.

Ethics complaints against Nathan Deal pre-date his successful run for governor in 2010. One of them involves his use of aircraft during his campaign -- alleging that Deal overpaid for plane and helicopter usage, funneling more than $135,000 into North Georgia Aviation, a company partially controlled by his family. More than a year ago, the state ethics commission unanimously dismissed that complaint.

Another complaint said Deal had spent $17,000 of campaign money on legal fees fighting ethics complaints. The commission also dismissed that claim.

When he first ran for governor, Deal had faced a congressional ethics probe -- which alleged that a Deal-owned business, North Georgia Salvage, had received preferential treatment in a state contract because of his position as a member of Congress. The feds dropped that complaint when Deal resigned from Congress to run for governor.

The state Ethics Commission itself has been through turmoil. A Republican appointee, Patrick Millsaps, engineered salary reductions for staffers who'd been handling the complaints against Deal. Millsaps emphatically said the salary cuts were budgetary and had nothing to do with the complaints against Deal. One of those staffers, former executive secretary Stacy Kalberman, was among those receiving federal subponeas.

Critics of Gov. Deal issued statements Thursday praising the feds for at least reviewing the ethics complaints.

The governor's attorney, Randy Evans, issued a statement saying that the Ethics Commission ruled correctly when it mostly exonerated Deal during its investigations - and predicted the probe would become a tool of what he called "the politics of personal destruction" during the 2014 campaign - in which Deal is running for re-election.

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