Jones: New AG on right track; impeachment will be completed this spring

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2017

Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said he is pleased with the way Alabama’s new attorney general has handled issues related to the impeachment of Gov. Robert Bentley.

In November, then-Attorney General Luther Strange asked the House Judiciary Committee, which Jones chairs, to cease active interviews and investigation until “necessary related work of the Attorney General’s Office has been completed.”

Although Strange never confirmed that his office was investigating Bentley, most concluded from that letter that the investigation targeted the governor, as the Judiciary Committee was only investigating him.

Last week, Bentley appointed Strange to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became U.S. Attorney General; on Friday, the governor named Steve Marshall Alabama’s attorney general.

Earlier this week, Marshall recused himself from the investigation after meeting with staff members in his new office.

“I have had two early meetings with Attorney General Marshall,” Jone said. “He is asking the right questions, and approaching this in the way I hoped he would have.”

Because Bentley appointed Marshall to the post, Jones said, he believes Marshall had no option but to recuse himself.

“Even if there’s not a technical reason, the perception is something he could never get beyond. He saw there would be an appearance of impropriety. Given the circumstances, that was more than enough reason to recuse.”

Marshall appointed former Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks to serve as supernumerary district attorney leading the investigation.

“Ellen has an incredibly strong reputation,” Jones said. “I expect her to move rather aggressively.”

He said it would be inappropriate for him to know what Brooks is doing, but based on her reputation, she is absolutely perfect for the job.

The impeachment process began against Bentley last spring amid questions that he had used the resources of his office to facilitate an inappropriate relationship with a staff member. Jones said he had planned to begin hearings in early December before he received Strange’s request to put the hearings on hold. He still believes the process will be completed before the current legislative session, which began last week, ends.

“I have never hedged on this,” he said. “I can’t say a specific time, but our intent is to have completed this impeachment hearing process before or by the end of the session.”