The Alabama House of Representatives is expected to vote next week to establish a 15-person investigatory committee to probe the possible impeachment of Gov. Robert Bentley.
Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, said Wednesday he will propose a new rule to create the committee, which would have subpoena power and could meet after the Legislature adjourns. He added the House could vote on it by next Wednesday or Thursday.
Henry would like to impose a six-month deadline on any committee investigation.
Bentley last month acknowledged making sexually charged remarks to a female aide, who has since resigned. The admission came after former Alabama Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier, a day after being fired by Bentley, accused the governor of having an affair and of interfering with law enforcement investigations. Bentley denies allegations of a physical affair and misuse of his office.
Bentley said Tuesday there is “no basis” for impeachment.
Henry had initially filed articles of impeachment accusing Bentley of “willful neglect of duty, incompetence, corruption and moral turpitude,” but said Wednesday the legislature quickly realized it had no framework to conduct an impeachment process.
“”We never left square one,” Henry said. “What became crystal clear was that we do not have a mechanism to deal with this. We’ve been sitting on square one for the last eight days … and now we can move to step two.”
House Speaker Mike Hubbard said Wednesday that he and the “vast majority of the House” think impeachment is “premature” at this juncture.
“We have to be careful about these things,” Hubbard said. “We don’t know of any wrongdoing, we don’t know any of the facts yet.”
Hubbard is currently facing 23 felony ethics charges of using his political offices to benefit his businesses. Bentley is expected to be a witness at his trial next month.
Henry is confident he has the votes to establish the investigatory committee, and said the public’s appetite to pursue impeachment is only growing.
He said a committee would be an “information gathering” body and have no power itself to move impeachment forward. Legislators can call an impeachment session at any time outside of the regular session and likely will if the committee finds probable cause, Henry said.
Henry said the legislature believes it “inherently” has subpoena power but acknowledges that will likely be challenged. A bill currently in the Senate would allow committees to enforce subpoenas through the circuit courts.
Alabama voters in November, as part of a piece-by-piece rewrite to the Alabama Constitution, will vote on changes to the part of the Alabama Constitution that deals with impeachment. The proposed change clarifies that it requires a two-thirds vote in the Alabama Senate to remove someone from office.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.