By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, July 19, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hire Birmingham attorney, Jack Sharman, as special counsel to run the impeachment investigation of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R). Sharman is a partner with Birmingham based Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC.
Sharman’s contract is capped at $100,000, but that ceiling could be raised if necessary. Also on Friday, Gov. Bentley announced that the office of the Governor had retained Ross Garber of the law firm Shipman & Goodwin to represent the Office of the Governor and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) in his official capacity, in connection with the pending impeachment investigation by the House Judiciary Committee. The Governor’s office also has announced Garber’s contract will have to be approved by the legislature’s Contract Review Committee on September 1, 2016.
Garber’s firm has agreed to undertake this work at a discounted rate of $195 per hour.
That contract is expected to be capped at $100,000. Of course once one of these contracts approaches the cap, the office can apply back to the contract review committee for a new contract or to extend the cap.
The legislature’s contract review committee has already approved a $100,000 contract for the law firm of Maynard, Cooper, & Gayle to defend embattled Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s defense in a lawsuit brought by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) head Spencer Collier for improper termination.
State Auditor, Jim Zeigler, who was present at Friday’s meeting of the Judiciary Committee to approve Sharman’s hiring, said this means Alabama taxpayers will now be paying both to prosecute and defend Bentley.
Zeigler said Friday in a statement after the committee meeting, “We taxpayers are catching it from both ends. It is going to be costly to try to remove the Governor. The only thing that would be even more costly would be to keep the Governor for 2 ½ more years, misusing public resources.”
Zeigler said, “At some point, Alabama citizens will get completely fed up with the Bentley soap opera and want it resolved. We are close to that point. People do not want to wait for a legislative process that could last most of Bentley’s remaining term.”
Zeigler said that there are now four separate investigations of Bentley: “The Montgomery County Grand Jury, the Ethics Commission, the House Judiciary Committee, and the US attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, who was assigned here.”
Zeigler said “It would save the state a lot of time and money if Bentley would just resign.”
Zeigler was also critical of the Judiciary Committee’s handling of this and said that the impeachment investigation should have started in April when allegations surfaced about Bentley possible use of state resources in what the Governor admits was an, “Inappropriate relationship” with his then Senior Policy Adviser: Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who is still married to Bentley’s office of faith based initiatives: Jon Mason. There are legal questions being raised by the media about hundreds of thousands of dollars that have flowed from state coffers, the Bentley campaign, and Bentley’s foundation to the power couple, whom the Bentley’s once provided faith based premarital counseling for. First Lady Diane Bentley divorced the Governor last year sixteen months after discovering of the relationship by secretly taping a conversation between the Governor and his top political advisor.
Bentley denies doing anything illegal and denies any physicality with Mrs. Mason while acknowledging that the sexually suggestive audiotape is indeed his voice.
After Friday’s hearing, Zeigler said, “This impeachment is on a slow boat. You’ve heard of a slow boat to China? Well, this impeachment process is a slow boat on the Alabama River.”