- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Thursday that he has “no problem” with the House of Representatives establishing a general impeachment investigatory committee if it wants - but that there’s no need for one directed at him.

“There’s never been any reason for impeachment,” said Bentley, who was in the statehouse for a police honor ceremony. “I think what they’re doing now is certainly fine. It’s a practical way of looking it.”

The possible establishment of an investigatory committee to probe Bentley’s potential impeachment is the latest entanglement for the governor.

Bentley has struggled to shake scandal since he acknowledged last month that he made inappropriate remarks to a senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. He denies a physical affair or misuse of his office. Mason has since resigned.

Later Thursday, State Auditor Jim Zeigler said he is ordering Bentley to testify before him about state funds and if they were used to facilitate a relationship with Mason.

Zeigler wants the governor to bring documents, and answer questions about 11 areas including state cellphone use and travel records.

“When you read the state constitution and the state code, you’ll find some interesting stuff. Like the power to compel state officials to appear, and to put them under oath, which is vested in my office as state auditor,” Zeigler said.

It’s unclear if Zeigler has any power to enforce the order. He has often clashed with Bentley and previously asked for an ethics investigation into the governor’s behavior.

The governor’s office had no comment Thursday night on Zeigler’s actions.

A bipartisan group of eleven lawmakers last month dropped articles of impeachment against Bentley, but the legislature quickly realized a vague constitution and unprecedented procedure gave them little framework to follow.

Legislators began working to establish a mechanism they can use to probe any potential future impeachments, not just efforts aimed at Bentley.

Republican Rep. Matt Fridy on Wednesday introduced a resolution that would trigger an investigatory committee any time 10 or more lawmakers sign articles of impeachment against a state official.

Fridy said his resolution is “directed generally” at the impeachment process, not at Bentley.

Republican Rep. Ed Henry, who backed the initial articles of impeachment, said Thursday he’s concerned the process is grinding to a halt. There are five legislative meeting days left in the session.

“The process of this whole thing has started to bog down a little bit,” Henry said. “If we don’t accomplish something within the next two to three legislative days, it will not happen.”

The 15-person investigatory committee could have subpoena power and hold meetings outside of the normal legislative calendar.


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