Rep. Mike Jones expects Bentley impeachment probe to resume soon

The lawmaker overseeing an impeachment investigation against Gov. Robert Bentley said the investigation remains on hold for now but he expects it to be completed before the end of the legislative session.

House Judiciary Chairman Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said today he had met with newly appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall twice and said he expects to talk with former Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks, who was named by Marshall today to oversee an investigation of the governor.

Marshall, who was appointed attorney general by Bentley, today recused himself from the investigation of the governor being conducted by the special prosecutions division of the AG's office.

Marshall's predecessor as attorney general, Luther Strange, had asked Nov. 1 for the Judiciary Committee to put on hold its impeachment investigation of the governor because his office was looking into related matters.

Today's recusal by Marshall and appointment of Brooks confirms that the investigation is of the governor.

Jones said he would now communicate with Brooks and await clearance to proceed with his committee's work. He said he thinks that will happen in time for the committee to complete its investigation and refer its findings to the full House of Representatives during this legislative session, which must end no later than late May.

"Ultimately, it's my opinion that before this session is concluded we will have completed the hearing and this matter will be before the body on the floor and a vote will have taken place," Jones said. "Now when that will occur there's simply no way I can tell you at this point."

If the House votes to send impeachment charges to the Senate, the Senate would hold a trial. It would take a two-thirds vote to convict the governor.

Bentley has denied breaking any laws or doing anything to warrant impeachment.

Bentley attorney Bill Athanas issued a statement today saying the governor would cooperate with the attorney general's investigation.

Jones said he does not expect his committee to have to wait until the attorney general's investigation is complete to resume its work.

"My expectation is that we'll probably be released to go forward prior to anything that they complete," Jones said. "That's what I expect but I don't know. I'm going to wait and see. But I fully expect we'll complete this during the session."

On Tuesday, Reps. Corey Harbison and Randall Shedd, Republicans from Cullman County, circulated a new impeachment resolution against Bentley and hoped to gather enough support to change House procedures and send the impeachment charges directly to the Senate, bypassing the Judiciary Committee.

They said the allegations against the governor were casting a cloud over state government and making it difficult to address the state's problems.

Jones said it's important that process be guided by facts and evidence.

"No matter whether you like, dislike, agree or disagree with impeachment, the governor was elected by a vast percentage of the people of this state," Jones said.

"And we can't take this lightly and never should take lightly. This process was designed to vet out the issue, to get facts. And as much evidence before the committee as possible so that we make decisions based on real facts and real evidence and testimony."

Jones said he had intended to finish the impeachment investigation by the end of 2016 until Strange requested the suspension, which he said he believes was made "in good faith."

"I fully intend that this thing will be completed," Jones said. "But I'm not willing to jeopardize any ongoing investigations on that course."

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, issued a statement after Marshall's announcement today about recusal and appointment of a special prosecutor:

"Because an impeachment resolution has been filed, the House has a constitutional duty to gather needed information, examine the facts, and take a public vote on whether to forward articles of impeachment to the Senate," McCutcheon said.

"As a retired law enforcement officer, I am hesitant to take any immediate action that would impede, hamper, or compromise an on-going investigation being led by the Attorney General's Office. But, as Speaker of the House, I am determined that we will fulfill our constitutional obligation."

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photo of Rep. Mike Jones expects Bentley impeachment probe to resume soon

Article Rep. Mike Jones expects Bentley impeachment probe to resume soon compiled by www.al.com

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