By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Sunday, January 1, 2017, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler sent a letter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee asking him to restart the halted impeachment investigation of embattled Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R).
“Attorney General Luther Strange had requested that you halt the impeachment due to activities by his office. He stated that his office had ‘related work’ to the investigation of Gov. Bentley,” Zeigler stated. “It is clear that there was either a serious misunderstanding between the Attorney General and this committee, or else an obstruction of the legislative impeachment process by Attorney General Luther Strange.”
The Alabama Legislature returns for its Regular Session on February 7, 2017. At the end of the 2016 Regular Session, the House charged the Judiciary Committee with making a recommendation on whether or not they should impeach Bentley for misconduct in the matters surrounding his alleged affair with his former top political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
“It is obvious that the session will start without a report from your committee on impeachment,” Zeigler continued. “That failure was caused by the obstruction of the impeachment investigation by Attorney General Luther Strange. The only way that obstruction can be corrected is for this committee to restart the impeachment proceedings.”
Zeigler sent the letter to State Representative Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
“On Nov. 3, Attorney General Luther Strange wrote to you as Chair of this committee: ‘I respectfully request that the committee cease active interviews and investigation until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed.’ The next day, a news release from the House Public Information Officer stated. ‘The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said today that he’s suspending hearings into the Articles of Impeachment filed against Gov. Robert Bentley at the request of Attorney General Luther Strange, who is conducting a separate investigation of the Governor.’
“In the same news release, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon said: ‘…I believe that moving forward with impeachment hearings while there is an active criminal investigation would put a number of parties in a difficult position,” Zeigler went on to say. “I support pausing the committee investigation and allowing criminal proceedings to run their course. Now, Attorney General Luther Strange says he never said there is a criminal investigation of the Governor.”
Zeigler concluded, “The constitutional duty of impeachment of a Governor lies solely with the Alabama House of Representatives. The required number of representatives had signed articles to initiate impeachment, which was done. The next step is consideration by your House Judiciary Committee. I ask that you do your constitutional duty and restart the impeachment.”
The Alabama House of Representatives has not impeached a public official in over a hundred years. In that time, dozens have been convicted of gross misconduct, and most recently, disgraced Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) made the decision to refer the impeachment of Governor Bentley to Jones and the House Judiciary Committee.
Though indicted for 23 felony ethics violations (and later convicted on 12 of them), no member of the legislature introduced articles of impeachment against Hubbard. Bentley, while acknowledging an “inappropriate relationship” with Mrs. Mason, maintains that he has done nothing illegal.