By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Sunday, April 2017, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) suggested that the theme song for the investigation of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) should be: “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley.
Zeigler said that, “The probes of Gov. Robert Bentley will come to a head in April and end in May – or else they never will. It’s now or never.”
Zeigler has been a long-time critic of Gov. Bentley. Zeigler also filed the initial ethics complaint against the governor on March 25 of last year. The ethics commission meets this Wednesday, April 5, and may or may not rule on the Bentley complaint. Zeigler said that if the commission finds probable cause of ethics violations, they refer the case to the State Attorney General for prosecution. If they do not, the ethics complaints are dead.
Auditor Zeigler’s complaint alleges that Bentley used state resources in his admittedly inappropriate relationship with former Senior Political Adviser Mrs. Rebekah Caldwell Mason and that he illegally paid Mason with a dark money group, ACEGOV.
Zeigler has expressed his concern that the announced restart of the House impeachment investigation of Bentley is too close to the end of the legislative session. He said last week that lawyers for Bentley could “run the clock out with delaying tactics.” By law, the session must end by May 22.
The announced schedule for the House investigation begins on April 7, with the release of the initial report by special counsel Jack Sharman. Hearings in the House Judiciary Committee are scheduled from April 10 to 14. The full House is tentavely scheduled to vote on impeachment on May 9.
Zeigler insisted, “This is too close for comfort. We are already seeing the Bentley lawyers starting delaying tactics.”
An attorney for Bentley filed an emergency motion Thursday seeking to halt the filing of the initial impeachment report on April 7.
Zeigler claimed that, “If the governor is not impeached by the time the legislature adjourns, he will have dodged the impeachment bullet. This cloud has hovered over the Governor’s office for over a year now. That is long enough. Either clear the Governor of the accusations, or clear him out of office…Since childhood, we have heard the saying “April showers bring May flowers. I have a saying for Gov. Bentley: April investigations bring May terminations.”
Auditor Jim Zeigler has declared interest in running for Governor in 2018. Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Cavanaugh Andress (R) has already declared that she is running. Former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville has expressed interest in the job. Other possible candidates include Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan (R), Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Secretary of State John Merrill, US Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks), and businessman Tim James. Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore at this point appears to be contemplating a run for US Senate though if that changes he could elect to pursue the Governor’s office. On the Democratic side, gay rights activist Bruce Countryman is the only declared candidate at this point. State Representative Craig Ford (D-Gadsden), former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb (D), and former US Representative Parker Griffith are all possible candidates that are being discussed.
If Governor Bentley is actually impeached by the Alabama House, Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey (R) would assume his powers until the State Senate could decide whether or not he is guilty of the offenses he was impeached for in the House. Ivey would formally become Governor if the Senate votes to remove Bentley from office. Ivey would then fill the remainder of Bentley’s term which expires in January 2019.