By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
While Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) continues to push his ambitious $800 million prison building on credit scheme, most of the talk in the Montgomery Statehouse continues to center around whether or not the House of Representatives will impeach the Governor. No Alabama Governor has been impeached under the 1901 Constitution but there are more and more voices suggesting that could happen with Gov. Bentley. Former Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn (R).
Commissioner Dunn told The Alabama Political Reporter, “I can see where Rep. Jones would honor Attorney General Strange’s request to stand down. It would be hard for me, being one of the first to call for Governor Bentley’s removal from office and witnessing Bentley’s behavior, to not go forward regardless of who is requesting a delay in the process. But now with the appointment of Luther, one could be led to believe that Luther had alternative motives by sending a message to Bentley that his fate was in Luther’s hands, and not Rep. Jones. I believe this is why Bentley has had an in your face attitude about the whole situation. I just hope the legislators are not just going through the motion to give the impression they are protecting the interests of the people of Alabama and the integrity of the office of Governor.”
At the end of last year’s legislative session, the full House voted to task the House Judiciary Committee with the responsibility for making a recommendation on impeachment. After hiring a special prosecutor and issuing subpoena’s Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) ordered the impeachment hearings suspended after the request was made by AG Luther Strange. Since then AG Strange has been appointed to the US Senate by Gov. Bentley. No indictments either state or federal have been announced. Now Chairman Jones has to figure out what to do next.
Chairman Jones said in a statement, “In July the Committee voted to hire Jack Sharman as special counsel to oversee our investigation. Mr. Sharman and his team worked hard to meet a tight timeline that was consistent with the Committee’s desire to complete our work as expeditiously as possible. Attorney General Strange requested that we pause our probe so that it would not interfere with his investigation. Out of respect for the possible consequences of having public hearings involving witnesses and evidence that overlapped, we stood down.”
The new Attorney General, Steve Marshall (R) recused himself and appointed Ellen Brooks to by acting Attorney General in this matter. Chairman Jones said, “I have spoken briefly with Ms. Brooks and plan to meet with her further in the near future. Once that occurs I will have a better understanding of how and when we will be able to resume our work.”
The Alabama Senate has created a Judiciary Committee subcommittee to write the procedures for holding an impeachment trial. No one has ever been impeached by the Alabama House under the 1901 Constitution so there is no historical precedent for any of this.
Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) has been tasked with chairing the new subcommittee. The subcommittee is expected to finish its work by April, perhaps expecting that the House will be ready to make a decision on whether or not to impeach the Governor by that point.
If Governor Bentley is impeached by the House, Gov. Bentley will immediately be suspended from his duties as Governor and Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey (R) will assume the duties of the Governor until the Senate can reach a verdict on Bentley’s guilt or innocence. At this point, we don’t know what the Judiciary Committee will even charge Bentley with. Even if Bentley is found guilty by the Senate, the Senate could simply reprimand him and allow him to finish out his term.
Former PSC Commissioner Dunn has been a vocal critic of Gov. Bentley’s conduct and has urged that the House move more rapidly on this matter. Dunn was elected in 2010; but was defeated in the GOP Primary by Chris “Chip” Beeker (R) from Greene County.