By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Holding up an enlarged copy of a “Get out of jail free” card from a Monopoly board game, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler began a press conference in front of the Capitol building by saying Amendment 6 is Gov. Robert Bentley’s “get out of impeachment” card.
Zeigler, a longtime critic of Bentley, called his press conference for the sole purpose of encouraging voters to vote down the proposed amendment when they go to the polls in November.
“This is a timebomb,” Zeigler said. “If Amendment 6 passes, it will simply blow any chance at impeaching (Bentley). It’s really that simple.”
Amendment 6, which was proposed in 2015 – well before the current efforts to impeach Bentley began – would alter the required votes for impeachment of elected officials, including the governor.
Current law, defined under Article VII of the Alabama Code, doesn’t specify a minimum number of votes required to remove an elected official through impeachment. Historically, that has been interpreted to mean only a simple majority is necessary.
Amendment 6 would require a two-thirds majority for impeachment. The amendment also clarifies which State officials are subject to impeachment.
However, as it appears on the ballot, the language for Amendment 6 doesn’t make it clear that it requires a two-thirds majority.
“It places the bar of impeachment at two-thirds, and I don’t think the average Alabama voter knows that,” Zeigler said. “I think if they did know that, they would soundly vote against it.”
Bentley has been under fire since he admitted this summer to an inappropriate relationship with a staffer, Rebekah Mason. Immediately, questions were raised about Bentley’s potential use of State funds to either carry out the relationship with Mason or to cover it up.
The House Judiciary Committee is currently investigating the matter and has subpoenaed thousands of records from Bentley and Mason.
Bentley has consistently denied that he acted outside of the law and he has been critical of the subpoena power afforded to the judiciary committee. Nonetheless, his office has turned over thousands of documents.
As APR reported on Monday, some of those documents have been selectively leaked to media outlets to push the public focus away from Bentley and Mason and onto former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency director Spencer Collier. It was Collier’s willingness to go public, coupled with leaked audio tapes of the Governor calling Mason, that exposed Bentley and Mason’s relationship.
Since that time, several state lawmakers, including Zeigler, have called for Bentley’s resignation, and when that was refused, his impeachment.
“I should also point out that I’m speaking against my own self-interests in asking that the public vote this down. Under the current laws, the State Auditor can also be impeached. Should I ever say anything controversial – not that that would ever happen – and run afoul of the Legislature, I could face impeachment.”