Chairman: Impeachment work not quite done

Published 1:14 am Thursday, April 13, 2017

Despite the resignation earlier this week of Gov. Robert Bentley, the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives has not completed its work.

The committee, which had worked since articles of impeachment were signed last year to conduct an investigation into charges against the governor, and to put a procedure in place for a hearing, released a report of its findings last Friday. Bentley resigned after their proceedings began Monday.

But Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, who chairs that committee, said his group’s special counsel still has to complete its final report.

“It is important for us to preserve the record, so history will have investigative procedures,” Jones said. “It has to be placed in the journal and be recorded, so there is a framework should it ever become necessary again.

“We put a lot of man hours, and spent a lot of money to design the process and get it put in place,” he said. “There is no use in some future body having to do that again, should impeachment ever become necessary.”

All of the committee’s documentation will be made available to the state Department of Archives and History, should they want it, Jones said.

Even as word spread around the state that Bentley’s attorneys were negotiating a plea deal and that he would resign before the day was over, Jones said his committee’s job was to continue. Bentley pled to two misdemeanor charges, which weren’t enough to force his removal from office.

“Resignation had to be a part of the deal,” Jones said. “And until we had that signed document in our hands, we could not stop. Until a resignation had taken place, our committee was obligated to go forward.’

“Once that was received, and they handed it over, I told our members we were about to go on the record and finish it out.”

Jones said he was made aware of the negotiations for plea deal early Sunday.

“When I was asked my thoughts on it, my response was very direct, and simple, he said. “I did not think it had anything to do with our responsibility. They were negotiating the criminal stuff.

“My obligation to the committee was his role as governor.

The only requirement I had was that (the deal) had to include his immediate resignation.”