By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, June 15, the Alabama House Judiciary Committee will meet on whether or not it should proceed with impeachment proceedings against Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R).
State Representative Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa) said in a statement, “Pursuant to the rules adopted in the House in the final days of the last session, the House Judiciary Committee is now responsible for investigating allegations asserted in Articles of Impeachment and also making a recommendation to the full House as to whether or not cause exists to impeach the official.”
Rep. England said, “Before the end of the session, a resolution with 23 co-sponsors was passed that contained Articles of Impeachment for Governor Bentley charging him with willful neglect of duty and also corruption in office.” “As a result of the resolution being passed, the House Judiciary Committee will meet on June 15, at 10 AM to discuss and adopt rules for the impeachment investigation of Governor Bentley.”
Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) said in his own statement that, “impeachment proceedings take way too long.”
Zeigler said, “The citizens of Alabama are weary of the Bentley problems. They want the air cleared on the Bentley administration soon. It appears that an impeachment investigation would not report its results to the full House until February, 2017, when the Regular Session starts.”
Zeigler said, “The people of Alabama do not want to wait until 2017 to clear the clouds over the governor’s office. They want something done now, or at least in the next few months. I agree.” It is unfair to the taxpayers for their State government to have to operate under a cloud.”
Auditor Zeigler has filed a separate complaint against Gov. Bentley but is unable to comment on that separate investigation due to a gag restriction by the Alabama Ethics Commission.
Bentley has been accused of having an affair with senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. He denies a physical affair or misuse of his office. Mrs. Mason has since resigned. Mason and her husband have both been well compensated for their appointed roles with the State and the Bentley campaign. Some have questioned if all of those transactions were legal and ethical.
Twenty-three lawmakers signed articles of impeachment against Governor Bentley. The articles triggered a House Judiciary Committee probe on whether there are grounds for impeachment. To date they have not ruled. The US Justice Department and Alabama Attorney General’s office have both acknowledged that they are investigating Gov. Bentley’s conduct. To date Gov. Bentley has not been formally charged with anything. If the Judiciary Committee recommends that the full House of Representatives reconvene to consider impeachment, the House might be lacking a Speaker as current Speaker, Rep. Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) is currently on trial for allegations that $2.3 million in contracts that he received while Speaker were unethical in nature. If the House were to vote to impeach the actual trial on whether or not to punish or remove the Governor would be held in the State Senate and presided over by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore who has been removed pending his own trial by the Court of Judiciary on allegations that his actions defending Alabama’s Defense of Marriage Act violated the code of judicial ethics.
If Governor Bentley resigns, is removed from office, or is impeached he will be the second Republican Governor of Alabama to lose the office for misconduct in the past 24 years. The last Democratic Governor of Alabama Don Seigelman is expected to be released from federal prison soon for his bribery and corruption conviction.