Auditor says questioning of governor will be open to public

Auditor says questioning of governor will be open to public

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Should Gov. Robert Bentley change his mind and decide to attend an Order of Appearance issued by Auditor Jim Zeigler, he won't be the only person in the room. Zeigler announced Monday he will make the meeting open to public and press, though he admits space in his office will be limited.

Zeigler is using a little-known provision of the Alabama Constitution that gives him the authority to question any person - under oath - who is connected to a claim or account he is authorized to audit.

The auditor, an outspoken critic of the governor, is seeking to force the governor to testify and release documents in eleven areas connected to state resources by Bentley and his former political adviser, Rebekah Mason. Bentley has admitted to inappropriate conversations with Mason but has denied ever having a physical affair with her.

"I do not intend to respond further to Mr. Zeigler," Gov. Bentley has stated after receiving the order. "The appropriate legal process is through the Alabama Ethics Commission where the Auditor has already filed a complaint."

The auditor says the meeting will be open to the public because he can't find any exemption to public meeting laws. He says the examination would be held in public office space, involving public officials and public documents.

Zeigler's Order of Appearance requires the governor turn over the documents and appear for questioning by 10 a.m. on May 2 in the Auditor's office, located inside the Capitol.

Though the governor's failure to attend would not constitute any criminal offense, the auditor says if he doesn't show up, other options, including filing for a court order to compel the governor to answer questions, are being studied.

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