- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Thursday offered to meet privately with members of an impeachment committee to answer whatever questions they have for him in a “frank discussion.”

Bentley wrote to House Judiciary Committee members asking for a Nov. 10 meeting in his office so they could discuss the impeachment probe. However, the governor specified he did not want the committee’s special counsel - who has been leading the impeachment probe- or recording devices to be present at the meeting.

“It is my intention to have an open and frank discussion with you and your colleagues. I will open myself up to every thought or question you may have for me. I will, to the best of my ability, answer all the questions posed to me,” Bentley wrote.

The House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether he committed any impeachable offenses in his relationship with a former aide and his dealings with his fired law enforcement secretary. Bentley’s offer of a private, unrecorded gathering came a day after the committee made a formal demand for Bentley to give sworn testimony before their special counsel Jack Sharman on Nov. 9.

The governor’s attorney is expected to issue a response next week to the testimony demand. Bentley wrote in the letter that he thought it was time for committee members to hear “directly from me.”

“It is you that will ultimately make the decision,” Bentley wrote

A spokesman for the House of Representatives said Friday that Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones did not have an immediate response to the governor’s letter.

Twenty-three House members signed impeachment articles after Bentley’s fired law enforcement secretary accused the governor in 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.

The lawmaker who spearheaded the impeachment push said Friday that he objected to information being exchanged in a private meeting with the committee.

“It should be public hearings,” Rep. Ed Henry, R-Decatur, said. “I believe in transparency. If the governor has something to say behind closed doors, he should have the guts to say it in public.”

The governor’s attorney, Ross Garber, on Friday asked the committee to provide copies of documents and testimony submitted by others during the investigation. The material is needed to protect the due process rights of the governor and allow his attorneys to prepare a defense, Garber wrote.

The impeachment articles accuse Bentley of corruption but do not lay out any specific offenses. The governor’s office has previously asked the committee to clarify what areas they are investigating.

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