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Committee Approves Special Counsel for Bentley Investigation

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Friday, July 15, the Alabama Judiciary Committee met in Montgomery at the State House to hire attorney Jack Sharman to be the special counsel to investigate the possible impeachment of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R).

Jack Sharman was the choice of the special counsel subcommittee, chaired by Judiciary Committee Vice-Chair Jim Hill (R-Odenville). The other members were Rep. Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa) and Rep. David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook).

Rep. Hill was that the subcommittee composed a list of nine to ten top attorneys to call about the special counsel position. Those were reached out to by phone. They were Black, White, male, and female. Several declined the invitation to interview for the job. Some had conflicts of interest. Some said that they did not have the time.

Rep. Hill said, “The ones that were interested we interviewed.” The interviews were held in Faulkner’s office for two days. Four candidates were interviewed by the subcommittee.

Hill said that they selected Jack Sharman. Sharman is a partner with Lightfoot, Franklin, & White, LLC in Birmingham.

Sharman is the leader of Lightfoot’s white collar defense and corporate investigations practice. Sharman was the special counsel for the US House Banking Committee during the Whitewater investigation in 1995. He clerked for US Appeals Court Judge David B. Sentelle. His law degree is from Harvard, he has a Masters in fine art from Washington University in St. Louis, and an art degree from Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

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Rep. Christopher England said, “He is the most qualified candidate to accomplish this objective.”

The Executive Director of the Alabama Attorney General’s Association Barry Matson said that the going rate for high level partners, like Sharman, for outside legal services is $195 an hour. Other attorneys at the firm would get compensated at the same rate. Matson said that is standard and the contract has a $100,000 ceiling. If the work approaches that amount then committee would have the option of extending that contract or raising that cap.

State Representative Allen Farley (R-McCalla) told the subcommittee: “I have great confidence in all three of you. Were you all in agreement with the process?”

Chairman Hill said, “I certainly was.’

Rep. England said, “Absolutely, I was more than happy with the result.”

Rep. Faulkner also expressed his satisfaction with the process and the choice of Sharman.

The full Judiciary Committee voted to approve Sharman as special counsel.

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Sharman told reporters that he intended to conduct the investigation as prompt and as fair as possible. There are multiple investigations are under way. A lot depends on the availability of documents. Sharman said that Judiciary Chairman Mike Jones wants to act promptly but there is no deadline on the investigation.

Governor Bentley’s defense attorney Joe Espy said that Jack Sharman is a good man.

Espy admonished the media for inaccurate reporting: I have an enormous amount of respect for the job that you do; but the media slipped yesterday. All the grand jury proceedings are secret. Several news organizations said that Bentley is the target of the grand jury. He testified before the grand jury.

Espy said that Gov. Bentley is moving forward and letting the process play out.

Espy said that he still believes that the three members of the Judiciary Committee who signed the articles of impeachment letter should be removed from the committee.

Espy said that he is particularly concerned with Rep. Allen Farley. Farley disrespected the process when he voted for the rules and then went on talk radio in June, breaking the rules that he had just voted on. “That is the kind of things that gets us off track.” “We asked Mr. Farley to step aside.” We have asked Mike Ball to step aside.

Espy said that the Gov. Bentley intends to cooperate with the Judiciary Committee investigation; but emphasized that the Committee does not have subpoena power. He also said that while they will be happy to share documents asked for by the Committee; we can’t share documents that were requested by the grand jury.

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Espy said that he want the Committee to specify what the Governor actually did.

Chairman Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) said that the investigation is the most important part of this process. The next time we meet will likely be evidentiary.

Jones disagreed with Espy’s assertion that the Committee does not have subpoena powers; but said that subpoenas may not be necessary if people will willingly cooperate and come before the committee to tell what they know.

The Judiciary Committee will make the recommendation to the full House of Representatives about whether they should vote to impeach Governor Bentley or not. Jones said that he expected the highest possible ethical standards from the investigation.

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

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