HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said it took time for the House to put together the structure and rules to pursue an impeachment investigation of Gov. Robert Bentley.
Once the structure was in place, the House Judiciary Committee went to work, hiring special counsel Jack Sharman. Sharman’s report on the Governor proved devastating.
“And once we began to look at that report I realized then that impeachment was going to be imminent for the Governor in the House,” McCutcheon told WHNT News 19 Tuesday.
McCutcheon and Bentley had been friends, but his role was clear.
“And I felt like as a duty to the people of Alabama, and embarrassment that we may have in Alabama, I felt like it was necessary that I go to the Governor, and just suggest to him that he resign,” McCutcheon said.
That was on the morning of April 7. The Governor addressed the media that morning saying he’d made mistakes in his personal life, but he had no plans to resign.
McCutcheon said before he spoke to Bentley he’d thought about how people’s lives would be affected and changed by the unfolding events.
They had a direct conversation, he recalled.
“He was receptive to what I was saying, and we talked and from that point. He knew the decision was going to have to be made, one way or the other,” McCutcheon said.
Lawyers for Bentley spent much of April 7 in court, arguing about lack of due process in the impeachment proceeding.
Sharman’s report still hadn’t been released. That afternoon McCutcheon made his advice to Bentley public in a news conference.
“I am hopeful he will do the right thing and step down from office immediately. It’s the only way to avoid taking our state on a long, painful and embarrassing journey,” McCutcheon said April 7.
The Sharman report was released late that Friday afternoon, alleging Bentley used state law enforcement personnel to further and cover up an affair with his former top political aide Rebekah Mason.
While the Judiciary Committee began impeachment proceedings on April 10, the governor and his lawyers worked out a plea agreement with the Alabama Attorney General’s office. The governor pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, agreed to pay back related funds and resign his office.
Kay Ivey was sworn-in the same day as the new governor.
McCutcheon said he’s proud that the House put together a structure to handle an impeachment proceeding, where none existed before. He’s also proud that the Alabama Legislature continued to function after the tumultuous weeks before Bentley’s resignation.
And, he said he tried to do the right thing.
“Some people had a lynch mob mentality. Some people didn’t know all the facts. And to me, I wanted to be, I just wanted to be forthright and have a sense of integrity going through this,” he said.
McCutcheon said he hasn’t spoken to Bentley since the day he urged him to resign.