Lawmakers restart impeachment push against Bentley

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, April 28, 2016

By KIM CHANDLER & MELISSA BROWN | Associated Press 

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Lawmakers have gathered enough signatures to re-ignite an effort to impeach Gov. Robert Bentley, a state lawmaker leading the push said Thursday.

Twenty-three representatives on Thursday signed new articles of impeachment sponsored by Rep. Ed Henry, accusing Bentley of willful neglect of duty and corruption in office.

“Governor Bentley has overstepped his bounds and needs to be removed from office,” Henry said at a press conference.

The north Alabama lawmaker was to file the articles Thursday afternoon, which under newly passed House rules, will go to the House Judiciary Committee for investigation.

The revived push came after the House on Tuesday passed a rule change requiring 21 votes — rather than 11 — to start an impeachment investigation.

Henry filed his initial impeachment articles against Bentley after Spencer Collier, the former state law enforcement secretary, accused Bentley of having an affair with a staffer and of interfering with law enforcement business. Bentley acknowledged making inappropriate remarks to his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, but denied the other accusations.

Henry said he believed Bentley used state resources to “cover up or enhance” the alleged affair.

A spokeswoman for Bentley could not immediately be reached for comment. Bentley earlier this month called impeachment efforts “political grandstanding.”

The rule change Tuesday was “frustrating,” Henry said, but it may have motivated more representatives to support the effort.

“The tide’s rising,” Henry said. “The more the leadership of the House resists, the more it causes the body to rise up.”

Rules Chairman Mac McCutcheon had suggested the 21-signature threshold— a number equal to one-fifth of House members — to make sure the impeachment articles have “credibility.”

Legislators approved the rules after saying they needed a more specific procedure to the vague process laid out in the 1901 Alabama Constitution.

How quickly, or slowly, things proceed could be up to the Judiciary Committee. Henry said he did not expect anything to happen before the session ends next week, but said the committee could meet after lawmakers leave Montgomery.