Stacey Kalberman, executive secretary of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, lobbied lawmakers during this year’s regular legislative session for more money. She noted that the General Assembly has increased the commission’s work load with tough new ethics laws, while cutting its budget by more than 40 percent over the last two years. As a result, the commission has no investigators (it used to have three) and only one auditor (it used to have three of those as well).
Now it appears it will also do without Kalberman and her deputy, Sherilyn Streicker. The commission’s governing board announced that Streicker’s position would be eliminated and Kalberman’s salary would be cut from $120,000 to $85,000.
It is worth noting that while Kalberman’s salary certainly seems high by Georgia demographic standards, it is the figure for which she presumably was hired, and does not seem out of line with her responsibilities — especially given the panel’s heavily increased workload.
But the real issue here is bigger than pay cuts or the elimination of a couple of executive jobs: It’s the question of whether Georgia’s highly touted new ethics laws can be viewed as anything other than a cynical political sham if there is no official will to enforce them.
Perhaps the General Assembly’s first order of business next year — even before the politically weighted and ethically dubious quest for tax “reform” — should be to reconstitute, and adequately fund, a real state ethics commission with legal expertise and investigative power and teeth. (Another suggestion: Call it an “ethics commission.”)
A state government sincerely committed to the proposition that it has nothing to hide owes its citizens nothing less.