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House Judiciary Committee Meets Friday On Recommendation for Special Counsel in Bentley Scandal

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama House of Representatives Judiciary Committee will meet on Friday, July 15, to vote on approving the subcommittee choice for the special prosecutor to investigate the Bentley sex scandal.

The Alabama House Judiciary Committee will meet on Friday, July 15, at 1:30 pm, in room 200 of the Statehouse, on the selection of the special counsel for impeachment proceedings against Gov. Bentley. According to the announcement on the Committee’s website, the Committee will vote on Friday whether to affirm the Subcommittee’s selection.

Judiciary Committee Vice-Chairman Rep. Jim Hill (R-Odenville) was tasked in a June meeting with heading a subcommittee to recommend someone to be the special counsel. Rep. Hill’s subcommittee will present their recommendation to the full committee, which after discussion will vote on whether or not to affirm the subcommittee’s selection. Rep. Hill is a retired St. Clair County Judge.

State Representative Dickie Drake (R-Leeds) committee will present their recommendation for Special Counsel to the Committee. After discussion, the Committee will hold a vote as to whether to affirm the Subcommittee’s recommendation.

State Representative Dickie Drake (R-Leeds), who serves on the Judiciary Committee, told the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ that the role of the special counsel was to be a fact finder.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked Representative Drake if the special counsel was going to be given the authority to make the recommendation on impeachment (or not) to the full House.

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Rep. Drake said,. “We (the House Judiciary committee) will decide,” on whether or not to proceed with impeachment proceedings. Rep. Drake said that the committee wanted to have a special counsel who was experienced with the discovery process.

Several legislators led by State Representative Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) have publicly announced that they want to impeach Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) over allegations swirling around the Governor about an alleged affair with former top political advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

There are allegations that the married Mrs. Mason may have improperly have benefitted from her “inappropriate relationship” with the then married 74 year Gov. Bentley. There are questions about if state resources were improperly used to facilitate or cover up the affair. There are also questions about whether Bentley campaign dollars that went to Mrs. Mason may have violated state election laws. Similarly there are questions about whether or not donations to Bentley’s non-profit group were improperly used to compensate Mrs. Mason for her, “services.” Did entities, including lobbyists and corporations, donate to pay Mason in order to influence legislation? Did that make Mrs. Mason an unregistered lobbyist? Were state employees including Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Director Spencer Collier improperly fired on the orders of Mrs. Mason? Were the Governor and Mrs. Mason conspiring to try to get the ethics trial of then Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard thrown out of court and prosecutor Matt Hart removed from the case? Did the Governor and Mrs/ Mason orchestrate the mass firings of ALEA investigators in order to close down several investigations into possible corruption by public officials including members of the legislature?

All of this and more is already being investigated by the US Department of Justice (who has appointed their own special prosecutor), the Alabama Attorney General’s office, and the Alabama Ethics Commission. Will the legislature wait on those investigations to conclude or will they act based on what the special counsel determines probably happened?

Gov. Bentley has acknowledged having an “inappropriate relationship” with Mrs. Mason, only after Director Collier released an audiotape, originally recorded by First Lady, Diane Bentley, that sounded as if the elderly Governor and his top political aide were having romantic rendezvous in the Governor’s office. Mrs. Bentley divorced the sitting Governor in 2015. The Governor and Mrs. Mason both deny that they were engaged in any actual sex acts or that they broke any laws. Mrs. Mason has since resigned from her post with Bentley’s Alabama Council for Excellent Government.

Bentley’s behavior has been widely reported both nationally and internationally where he is sometime’s referred to as, “The luv guv.”

During the 2016 Regular Legislative Session, Rep. Henry and twenty two other legislators signed a letter bringing Articles of Impeachment against Gov. Bentley. The powerful House Rules Committee, Chaired by Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw) assigned the matter to the Judiciary Committee.

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The House Judiciary Committee is chaired by Rep. Mike Jones, (R-Andalusia). Other members are Republicans: Jim Hill, Mike Ball, Paul Beckman, Dickie Drake, Allen Farley, David Faulkner, Matt Fridy, Mike Holmes and Phillip Pettus, as well as Democrats Thad McClammy, Marcel Black, Merika Coleman‑Evans, Chris England and Juandalynn Givan.

Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) has been bitterly opposed to impeaching Gov. Bentley and has vowed to expose fellow members’ sexual misconduct on the House floor if they impeach Gov. Bentley.

While the Alabama 1901 Constitution allows the legislature to impeach the Governor for crimes of moral turpitude, most legislators are reluctant to remove Bentley solely for adultery.

If the Judiciary Committee decides there is enough evidence of misconduct on the part of Gov. Bentley to proceed, they will make a recommendation to impeach to the full body of the Alabama House of Representatives.

The full House would then vote on whether or not to impeach Gov. Bentley. The House functions like a Grand Jury would in a court setting. If the House votes that Bentley probably did something wrong, the State Senate would then hold a trial.

The trial in the Senate would be presided over by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. At this time, we are not sure who that is or would be if that trial is ever held. The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was elected by the people of Alabama is Roy Moore (R). Moore is currently suspended with pay after the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) brought charges against him for violating their version of judicial behavior. Associate Justice Lyn Stuart (R) is the acting Chief Justice while the Court of the Judiciary decides whether or not they want to remove Roy Moore. If Moore were removed as Chief Justice, presumably Gov. Bentley will appoint a new Chief Justice to finish out Moore’s term.

If the Senate finds that Gov. Bentley is guilty of acting improperly, they can choose to remove him as Governor or they could just censor him.

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One State Senator told the Alabama Political Reporter that the Senate is not eager to hear the case, because there are so many investigations of Bentley, that they could find him not guilty based on the evidence today and then have the spectacle of a second impeachment trial when new evidence reveals that the Governor is guilty of something else.

The Alabama Legislature has not actually impeached any office holder since 1915 and the then Secretary of State was never actually found guilty and removed.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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