Bentley impeachment proceedings to proceed

Bentley+impeachment+proceedings+to+proceed

Rebecca Rakowitz

Impeachment proceedings for Gov. Robert Bentley are set to begin in the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee today as the committee will make a recommendation for or against impeachment to the whole House.

The vote follows a unanimous ruling over the weekend by the Alabama State Supreme Court that impeachment proceedings against Governor Robert Bentley can start this week, thus reversing an order from a circuit court judge on Friday that had blocked impeachment proceedings. The court did not issue an opinion with the ruling.

“I want to thank the members of the Alabama Supreme Court for quickly acting on our appeal and recognizing what a circuit court judge didn’t understand, that there are three branches of government and the Alabama Legislature is free to conduct its business as prescribed in the state constitution,” Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, House Judiciary Committee chairman said in a statement.

Bentley’s legal team has argued that the hearings are unfair and do not give Bentley adequate opportunity to respond to accusations. They plan to submit briefs to the State Supreme Court regarding the matter by the Court’s Monday deadline, but the Montgomery Advertiser reports that the hearings will proceed regardless of the content of the briefs.

“It’s disappointing to hear the committee will plow forward while the Supreme Court is considering the case,” Ross Garber, Bentley’s lawyer said in a statement. “We have no idea what the committee has planned for Monday or who its witnesses will be.”

There have been calls for Bentley’s resignation or impeachment since last year when reports of an alleged affair with former adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason and misuse of state funds emerged. During the 2016 legislative session, members of the Alabama House of Representatives filed articles of impeachment alleging neglect of duty, corruption, incompetency, and offenses of moral turpitude.

Last week’s release of a 131-page report from the investigator of Bentley’s impeachment charges added fuel to the fire powering efforts to remove the governor. However, the governor has been steadfast in his claim that he will not step down. 

“I do not plan to resign,” Bentley said at a news conference on Friday. “I have done nothing illegal. If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no. I have not.”

Apart from the Judiciary Committee report, the Alabama Ethics Commission released its own report last week, which stated that there is probable cause to believe Bentley violated state ethics and campaign laws. The AEC alleged Bentley used public resources for personal interests, received campaign donations outside of restricted time frames, and used campaign funds to pay for Mason’s legal fees.

Rather than referring their case to the office of the State Attorney General, the AEC opted to refer potential prosecution to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. Bentley has denied each allegation.