By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, April 20, 2017, Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) announced that he and Tommy Chapman were dropping their lawsuit challenging the legality of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s (R) dubious decision to delay the Special Election for US Senate for 21 months. Bentley has since departed the Governor’s mansion to avoid impeachment and prosecution, and Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has reversed Bentley’s order on the Special Election.
Zeigler said in a statement, “Approximately two months ago, former Governor Robert Bentley issued a proclamation setting a Special Election to fill the vacancy in the United States Senate created when Jeff Sessions became our new United States Attorney General, to coincide with the General Election in November 2018. This date was nearly two-years after the vacancy occurred.”
Zeigler continued, “When I saw this, and when former Governor Bentley appointed Luther Strange to fill the vacancy until the election could be held, it simply didn’t smell right. So, I began researching the matter, conferred with several highly respected lawyers and concluded that the scheduling of this election so far removed from the vacancy was not only illegal, but deprived me and other voters in Alabama of our right under the United States Constitution and the laws of Alabama to elect our United States Senator “forthwith.” Our research disclosed that since the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted, which gave voters the right to elect their United States Senators, elections to fill vacancies in the United States Senate in Alabama have been held as soon as 159 days (approximately 5 months) after the vacancy occurred and no more than 275 days (approximately 9 months) after the vacancy occurred. The November 2018 special election date set by former Governor Bentley would have been held 636 days (22 months) after the vacancy occurred.”
Zeigler said, “My friend, Tommy Chapman, a Democrat, and I, a Republican, decided something had to be done so we filed suit seeking a determination that the date set by former Governor Bentley for the special election was unlawful and an order directing him to set the election on an earlier date. We were able to persuade two fine lawyers, Doyle Fuller and Susan Copeland, to help us. The people of this State owe Mr. Fuller and Ms. Copeland a debt of gratitude because they undertook this case totally without compensation. Our lawsuit generated what became a public outcry to right this wrong. My lawyers were prepared to file a motion demonstrating why the date for the special election set by former Governor Bentley was unlawful and a hearing had been scheduled for May 15, 2017 to hear that motion. We were, and still are, confident that the Court would ultimately agree with us. But last week something happened to change everything. Former Governor Bentley resigned, pled guilty to two criminal offenses and left office in disgrace. Lt. Governor Kay Ivey was almost immediately sworn in as our new Governor. Shortly after she took office, I communicated with Governor Ivey and asked her to do something about this awful and illegal situation. In response, Governor Ivey did just that. She rescheduled the election to a time that gives back to the people of this state their right to timely choose their United States Senator. For her courage and commitment to the law, the people of this state also owe a debt of gratitude to Governor Ivey. It takes courage and commitment to go against the pressure from the swamp in Washington, D.C. to leave this alone and give Luther Strange the extra advantage that the unlawful delay of this election was designed to do.”
Zeigler concluded, “In light of the actions of Governor Ivey, the need to continue our lawsuit no longer exists. The problem has been solved. The rule of law has prevailed. Today, Tommy and I have, therefore, instructed our lawyers, with their good advice, to inform the Court that we are of the opinion that the issue in our case is now moot and that case is due to be dismissed. To her credit, it is my understanding that Governor Ivey has instructed her lawyers to concur in that motion. I am honored to have, once again, been the catalyst for bringing about the end of another injury to the rights of the people of this State.”
Zeigler was also instrumental in the investigation against Governor Robert Bentley. He and former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy George (R) filed the original ethics complaint against Governor Bentley that ultimately led to the Alabama Ethics Commission ruling that there was probably cause to refer four charges to prosecutors. Five days later Bentley resigned.
Zeigler blames Senator Luther Strange (R) for slowing the investigation and impeachment down.
At a recent news conference on Tuesday, April 18, The Alabama Political Reporter asked Zeigler if the impeachment could have been concluded faster if Strange, then Attorney General, had not issued an AG’s opinion shutting down an investigation into the alleged inappropriate use of State jets, helicopters, vehicles, and Law Enforcement to facilitate his admitted “inappropriate” relationship; with top political advisor, Mrs Rebekah Caldwell Mason?
Zeigler said, “Yes. I would have shared the results of my investigation with the Alabama Ethics Commission and this could have ended much sooner.” Zeigler added, “The main thing that Luther did was send a letter to the impeachment committee asking them to shut down their investigation.”
Since entering office in 2015, Zeigler, despite very little staff and resources, has been a relentless critic and investigator of the Bentley Administration.
Sources close to Strange have denied that Strange had some illicit agreement to protect Bentley in exchange for an appointment to the US Senate. They argue that Luther could not possibly have known then that Donald J. Trump (R) was going to defeat Hillary R. Clinton (D) and then nominate Senator Jeff Sessions to be US Attorney General. The letter to Judiciary Committee to Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) and the decision to block the Auditor’s investigation were both made prior to the November election.