Speaker's office: Impeachment probe won't resume next week despi - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Speaker's office: Impeachment probe won't resume next week despite rep's statements

Alabama House (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo) Alabama House (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Alabama state Rep. Corey Harbison (R-Cullman) said Tuesday afternoon that he had a commitment from House Speaker Mac McCutcheon that the impeachment investigation by the House Judiciary Committee against Gov. Robert Bentley will resume Wednesday, Feb. 22. Fast forward a few hours and it appears that is no longer the case.

Rachel Adams, McCutcheon's communications director, issued a statement that said: 

"There are no plans for impeachment hearings to resume next week. However, the Speaker expects Chairman Jones to give an update on the status of the proceedings at next week’s Judiciary Committee meeting."

Harbison doubled down on his assertion that he was given assurance the investigation would restart.

"I was told by someone who should know what he's talking about," Harbison said.

He added that he feels he was told something to "keep me quiet for a couple of hours."

Harbison circulated a resolution around the House Tuesday but said he would hold back on it as long as the committee investigation moved forward. He said despite the hold, he will continue to gather signatures. If he gathers enough, a vote could be held on whether to send articles of impeachment to the Senate.

After learning of the speaker's change, Harbison said that if the chair of the House Judiciary Committee is going to hold up the process, he thinks articles should go to the Senate. 

However, it may not be a simple majority that is needed to push this resolution through. Lawmakers may need to suspend the rules of the House in order to send the resolution to the Senate, which would take a 4/5ths vote.

Rep. Ed Henry (R-Cullman) said the speaker promised him there will be an up or down vote on impeachment before the session ends. 

Bentley's office reacted to news that a new impeachment resolution is being floated around the House of Representatives that accuses him of misusing campaign funds and not following state law.

Bentley's attorney, Ross Garber issued this statement:

“Alabama law requires that any impeachment proceedings follow a strict procedure and afford the Governor due process at every stage. Under the Alabama Constitution, impeachment would itself nullify an election, even before any trial in the Senate. There is perhaps no graver act in this State’s constitutional democracy. There are no short cuts to impeachment.”

The resolution lists two articles for reasons Bentley should he be impeached for cause: Willful neglect of duty and corruption in office.

The resolution claims Bentley violated campaign finance law by failing to timely disclose a $50,000 loan he made to his campaign committee. That loan exceeded the two business day reporting requirement by approximately two months. 

It is alleged that the Republican Governors Association reimbursed expenses of the governor during a time period in which it was unlawful to accept contributions.

The resolution then states that on Jan. 3, 2016, Bentley violated campaign finance laws by paying legal fees incurred by a former staff member from excess campaign funds. This misuse of campaign funds centers around legal expenses for Rebekah Mason, a political adviser whom Bentley is accused of having an affair.

According to Secretary of State John Merrill, the Alabama laws surrounding the use of excess campaign funds for someone other than the office holder or candidate are clear and not permissible.

The resolution also alleges Bentley failed to faithfully execute the laws of this state by refusing to call a special election required by law to fill the vacancy left by U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions.

On Friday, some lawmakers called for the impeachment investigations of Bentley to be renewed. These followed Bentley's appointment of Luther Strange to the vacated Senate seat previously held by now U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Some lawmakers believed Strange's Senate appointment would put the impeachment process of the governor into question.

Bentley also appointed former Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall as the new attorney general late Friday afternoon.

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