Impeachment committee wants sworn testimony from governor

AP News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2016 6:51 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama House Judiciary Committee is demanding that Gov. Robert Bentley give sworn testimony next month as it investigates whether he committed any impeachable offenses in his relationship with a former aide and his dealings with his fired law enforcement secretary.

The committee announced Wednesday that it sent a formal demand for the governor to provide deposition-like testimony at the office of the committee's special counsel on Nov. 9. The committee also asked for testimony from three staff members.

"As we seek to discharge our constitutional duty with regard to this investigation, we want a clear, truthful record from the Governor and his staff," Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones said. "We look forward to the cooperation of the governor and his staff with our special counsel."

The governor's attorney, Ross Garber, said Bentley's attorneys are studying the request but didn't immediately say whether he would comply. But Garber complained that a private attorney hired by the committee wants to take testimony "outside the view of the public and hidden even from members of the Judiciary Committee" charged with evaluating the credibility of witnesses.

"The governor's attorneys are evaluating the lawyer's requests and will communicate directly, as opposed to using press releases to grandstand," Garber said in a statement issued by Bentley's office that added it would insist on "fairness and due process."

The impeachment probe began after Bentley's fired law enforcement secretary accused the governor last March of having an affair with his then-political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, and of interfering in law enforcement business. Bentley, who is now divorced, admitted to inappropriate behavior and apologized to his family. But the governor denied a sexual affair and the other allegations.

Twenty-three representatives in the House of Representatives signed impeachment articles against Bentley in April. The House Judiciary Committee will make a recommendation to the full House of Representatives on whether impeachment is warranted.

The governor's attorneys and the committee have clashed previously over wide-ranging document demands to Bentley. Special counsel Jack Sharman previously accused governor's office of being uncooperative and Garber said Sharman was attempting an unfocused "fishing expedition."

The governor's office turned over more than 10,000 pages of material to the committee this month in response to subpoena requests from the committee. However, Garber also argued the committee had no authority to subpoena.

Sharman said Wednesday that he hoped the governor would provide testimony.

"Although we have not had the transparency and cooperation with the investigation that the governor promised, the committee hopes that the governor will take this opportunity to cooperate in the House's investigation," Sharman said.