Clark D. Cunningham (Alison Church)
In response to questions from the Daily Report about Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens’ decision not to release a controversial ethics commission memo during prior wrongful termination litigation against the state, a noted law and ethics professor is calling on Olens to be more transparent.
The memo, written by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission executive secretary, alleges that in July 2012 Gov. Nathan Deal’s chief of staff and executive counsel pressured the commission to quietly wrap up its investigation of Deal’s 2010 campaign. The memo, which references text messages, only recently came to light when the executive secretary asserted whistle-blower protection against the ethics commission in the wake of an audit.
Olens has denied he instructed executive secretary Holly LaBerge to conceal her memo during pending lawsuits brought by former ethics commission employees who claimed they were fired for investigating the governor. He also said he didn’t turn over the memo during the litigation because his office deemed it not responsive to the plaintiffs’ discovery requests.
In response to the Daily Report’s inquiries, Professor Clark Cunningham, the W. Lee Burge Chair in Law & Ethics at Georgia State University College of Law, wrote a letter, saying, “The attorney general’s statement raises more questions than it answers as to whether Mr. Olens and the attorneys under his supervision conducted themselves in accordance with their duties as public officials and as licensed attorneys.”
Cunningham says Olens should release documents related to his decision not to call for a criminal investigation into allegations outlined in the memo. Cunningham also calls on Olens to ask the state ethics commission for permission to release documents related to the decision not to disclose the memo during discovery in the earlier lawsuits.
A spokeswoman for Olens could not be reached immediately for comment.