FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A petition seeking a Kentucky lawmaker’s removal from office was dismissed Thursday night after a House panel was told that impeachment doesn’t apply to legislators under the state’s constitution.
The bipartisan panel dismissed the impeachment petition against Republican Rep. Robert Goforth following the testimony of two law professors. While the impeachment process doesn’t apply to legislators, another part of the constitution allows for a lawmaker’s expulsion by his or her colleagues, the professors said.
After the testimony, the House impeachment panel met behind closed doors for nearly an hour, then reemerged to vote on dismissing the petition. Republican Rep. Jason Nemes, the committee chairman, said the panel will submit a report offering reasons for the dismissal.
Goforth, a former gubernatorial candidate, was indicted last year for allegedly trying to strangle a woman. Goforth has pleaded not guilty. The impeachment petition, filed last month, was signed by several people who said Goforth’s ouster would signal that such abuse will not be tolerated.
Responding to the dismissal of the petition against him, Goforth said the impeachment panel “followed the law and respected the will of the voters.” Goforth, who was reelected by a wide margin last November, said he has been focused on representing his constituents.
Meanwhile, the professors told the impeachment panel that the constitution provides another process to remove lawmakers.
“Expulsion, not impeachment, is the constitutional mechanism to oust a legislator from office during his or her term,” said University of Kentucky law professor Joshua A. Douglas.
The state constitution says each legislative chamber may punish a member for disorderly behavior and expel a member based on the concurrence of two-thirds of the chamber, Douglas noted.
The petition against Goforth was part of a flurry of filings aiming to unseat prominent political leaders in Kentucky. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron are also the targets of impeachment petitions. The committee took no action Thursday night on the pending petitions against Beshear and Cameron.
Two petitions against Beshear have been dismissed but one is still pending. The petitions claimed the governor improperly infringed on individual rights with his coronavirus-related orders.
Beshear says there are “zero grounds” for his removal and maintains his COVID-19 orders have saved lives. He portrays the petitioners seeking his ouster as anti-government extremists.
Kentucky’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the governor had the authority to put restrictions on businesses and individuals to try to contain the coronavirus.
The petition calling for Cameron’s impeachment includes three grand jurors who criticized his handling of the investigation into Breonna Taylor’s shooting death by police last year.
Cameron has stood by his investigation into the Black woman’s death, which fueled protests over racial injustice. He said his team followed the law and presented a thorough case to the grand jury, adding that the petition against him was “so lacking in legal and factual support” it should be dismissed.
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