By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Wednesday, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), denied Governor Robert Bentley’s request to suspend the impeachment proceedings. Jones also denied the Governor’s request that certain committee members be recused from the hearings.
Jones issued a lengthy request for documents related to the funding of the Governor’s former senior adviser, Rebecca Caldwell Mason.
“After careful consideration and a close examination of the constitutional law and other reference sources, the motions are denied,” Jones said in a press release.
Bentley’s attorneys requested the committee suspend the impeachment investigation in August. In Jones’ eight-page response, he states that the Governor’s complaint, “that the hearings deny his rights to due process are premature and erroneous.” He also ruled that committee members are not required to recuse themselves since “the governor has no legal or political authority to dictate to the House or this Committee” which member can participate in the hearings. Bentley had requested the recusal of three members who had signed the petition.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler issued a statement saying, “The House Judiciary Committee is now moving aggressively with an investigation of Bentley. This is the first major movement toward impeachment. The Bentley motions to suspend the investigation and to remove three legislators who had signed the impeachment petition, were frivolous motions. The Bentley lawyers forget that impeachment is a legislative process, not a court of law.”
Zeigler initiated an Ethics Commission investigation in April, based on a report of alleged ethics violations by Bentley received by his office.
Impeachment investigations into Bentley by the committee began in June over possible impeachable offenses regarding Mason. Some twenty-three House members signed impeachment articles in April.
As precedent, Jones cited not only constitutional law, but also the “rules of the Alabama House of Representatives, reports from the US House Judiciary Committee, prepared during the impeachment of then, President Richard Nixon, and printed works by constitutional and impeachment scholars.
While the committee continues the investigation, a date has not been set for the next meeting. The investigation by the Ethics Commission continues.