Alabama taxpayers will be paying for both prosecuting and defending Gov. Robert Bentley, who faces a grand jury and possible impeachment over charges he abused the office.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler is not pleased.
“This Friday, a special counsel will be hired at taxpayer expense to handle the impeachment investigation of Bentley,” Zeigler said in a statement.
Ziegler announced that the state had approved a contract last week for up to $200,000 — paid with taxpayer money — to defend Bentley in a lawsuit filed by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier.
Bentley fired Collier in March, accused him of misusing funds during his time as ALEA secretary. Nevertheless, Bentley offered no proof of impropriety.
Collier is arguing his dismissal was in retaliation for signing an affidavit setting the Attorney General’s office had not leaked information in the trial of former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.
Currently, the governor is the target of four separate investigations: The Montgomery County grand jury, the state ethics commission, the House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
“We taxpayers are catching it from both ends,” Zeigler explained. “It is going to be costly to try to remove the governor. The only thing that would be even more costly would be to keep the governor for 2 ½ more years, misusing public resources.”
Bentley, who is term limited, is at the midway point of his second term. Unable to seek a third term, he will leave office in January 2019, after the 2018 election.
“At some point, Alabama citizens will get completely fed up with the Bentley soap opera and want it resolved,” Ziegler said. “We are close to that point. People do not want to wait for a legislative process that could last most of Bentley’s remaining term.”
Ziegler called for Bentley’s resignation, saying, “It would save the state a lot of time and money.