Judiciary Committee chairman: ‘It’s time’ for Monday’s Bentley impeachment hearing

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Alabama House Judiciary Committee said again today that it plans to begin impeachment hearings on Gov. Robert Bentley starting Monday, despite the governor’s request for more time to review allegations against him.

But Mike Jones, the judiciary committee chairman, said Thursday it is time to address the case against the governor.

“It’s time to put this in front of us, let’s address it, and let’s get it behind us,” Jones said, while speaking on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives.  “We will proceed day-to-day until we complete the hearing process and a motion or a recommendation is made.  We will then be coming to this body with that recommendation.”

Jones’s remarks come on the heels of findings Wednesday by the Alabama Ethics Commission that there is probable cause to believe the governor violated a state ethics law and committed three violations of state campaign finance law. The findings have been referred to the Montgomery County District Attorney's office so it can decide if criminal charges should be filed.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh Thursday called for Bentley’s resignation, saying he could no longer effectively govern.

But Bentley rejected that request, saying he had no intention of resigning.

The governor’s lawyers have been critical of the judiciary committee schedule and the way evidence is to be presented, arguing it failed to provide Bentley with due process.

They had proposed a schedule that began with the committee’s Special Counsel Jack Sharman laying out his findings, including details of any alleged offenses by Bentley that could lead to his impeachment.

But the committee’s announcement today that hearings will begin Monday means the schedule laid out by Sharman – which includes the expected public release of his report Friday and the answer by Bentley to the charges the following Tuesday – is still in place.

Bentley’s impeachment counsel Ross Garber has argued Sharman has “hijacked” the process, but the committee backed Sharman. Garber has also argued that in prior rulings the Alabama Supreme Court has said an official facing impeachment deserves the highest level of due process.

Bentley’s lawyers still have the option of going to court to ask a judge to intervene and review if the committee’s approach preserves the governor’s rights.

Alabama law contains few details about how an impeachment process should work, but it does say that if an official is impeached by the House, he or she is removed from office. The official could only get their job back if they win a trial in the Alabama Senate.

If the judiciary committee recommends Bentley should be impeached, Sharman’s current schedule calls for a full House vote on impeachment on May 20.