By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House of Representatives Judiciary Committee announced that it will meet on Tuesday, September 27, at 1:00 p.m. in Room 200. An agenda will be released this week.
House Information Officer Clay Redden said that, “This is part of the ongoing investigation into the Articles of Impeachment brought against the Governor.”
Several State Representatives led by Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) wanted to impeach Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) during the 2016 Regular Legislative Session after it was revealed that Gov. Bentley had had an inappropriate relationship with top political aide Mrs. Rebekah Caldwell Mason. The are also questions about dollars that Mason received from Bentley’s campaign and foundation as well as the firing on former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Secretary Spencer Collier.
Most legislature observers say that then Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) was skeptical of impeaching a sitting governor and he slow rolled the process during the 2015 legislative session so that nothing really got accomplished other than the legislature made it harder to impeach someone.
Then House Rules Chairman Mac McCutcheon (R-Madison) referred the articles of impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee near the end of the session. McCutcheon is now the Speaker after Hubbard was convicted of 12 counts of felony ethics violations.
On Friday, July 15, the Judiciary Committee met again to hire Jack Sharman to begin discovery on the allegations against Gov. Bentley and begin collecting evidence. Chairman Jones said that the next time the committee meets it will be to collect evidence. Key players in the Bentley scandal including Gov. Bentley himself and alleged mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason could be asked to testify.
The Attorney General’s office has called a special investigative Grand Jury and the US Government has appointed a special prosecutor to look into the Bentley scandal. The Alabama Ethics Commission is also investigating the Governor. To this point nobody has been indicted for anything.
The committee is reportedly looking into two articles of impeachment against Gov. Bentley: Corruption and neglect of duty.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler, a vocal critic of Bentley, said that, “A speedy investigation and trial is needed. If it takes as long to investigate Bentley as it did Mike Hubbard — over two years — Bentley’s term would be almost over.”
Zeigler said, ”The people of Alabama deserve to have the air cleared about the Bentley administration. They want and need impeachment sooner rather than later.”
The House Judiciary Committee is Chaired by Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia). Chairman Jones has said that once the evidentiary process begins, the committee may hold daily meetings until the work is complete.
The committee will likely make a recommendation on whether or not to indict Bentley to the full House of Representatives.
If the full House votes to impeach the 73-year-old Governor, the Senate would hold a trial to determine guilt or innocence. If found guilty by the Senate the Senate could remove or censure the Governor without removing him from office.