48 Investigates: How long would a Bentley impeachment take, cost - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

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48 Investigates: How long would a Bentley impeachment take, cost?

Governor Bentley is facing two things that could drive him from office, impeachment proceedings and an ethics investigation. (Source: Raycom file) Governor Bentley is facing two things that could drive him from office, impeachment proceedings and an ethics investigation. (Source: Raycom file)
ALABAMA (WAFF) -

Governor Bentley is facing two things that could drive him from office, impeachment proceedings and an ethics investigation.

How long would each one take? And more importantly, who's going to pay for it?

People want the truth to come out about Governor Bentley and his alleged affair.

"Why was he caught on tape with those comments?" asked Huntsville resident Sidney Ogwu.

There are multiple accusations he used taxpayer money to facilitate it. 

"I paid for that, I'm not real happy about that," another Huntsville resident, Steve Flora added.

With the impeachment proceedings in the State House and an ethics investigation underway, we want to know how long it will take and who will pay for it.

Our legal analyst Mark McDaniel represented Guy Hunt, the last Alabama Governor to be indicted while in office. Like Bentley, Hunt faced accusations of using state aircraft for personal reasons.

"Criminal investigations can go from a week to five years," said McDaniel. "If public money is ever used by a private official, for private purposes, that's an ethics violation."

McDaniel said probes into Hunt's actions began in 1990, but he wasn't convicted until three years later. He said a full criminal investigation of Bentley could take up to five years.

"You don't ever hurry on anything because if you have a good defense lawyer on the other side, the T's better be crossed and the I's better be dotted," explained McDaniel.

But a criminal trial wouldn't be able to convict Bentley for merely having an affair, much less be able to use secret recordings as evidence.

That's the rules in a court of law, but in an impeachment trial, there are no rules. There's one page in the Alabama constitution that talks about impeachment proceedings. It said it's up to the Senate to draw up rules for impeachment.

Several things need to happen before that.

First, the House needs to present the Articles of Impeachment, which Hartselle Representative Ed Henry has been working on. They then automatically go to the Rules Committee where one of three things happens:

  1. They pass them along to the House for a vote
  2. Set up a committee to investigate
  3. Let it die in committee.

If the committee decides to proceed, it will be put to a vote before the House, where it needs a simple majority to go on, from there it's up to the Senate Rules Committee.

"I don't think we've ever done it before," said Alabama Senator Jabo Waggoner. "We're cultivating new ground."

There are some provisions moving forward. The Senate would act like a jury, and the judge presiding over it all would be Supreme Justice Roy Moore.

Beyond that, McDaniel said, it's anybody's guess.

"What rules of evidence would you go by? The case would be heard in the Alabama Senate. Would they require a simple majority, a super majority?" said McDaniel.

Also, there's no guarantee the process will be swift, but there is one thing it will be.

"It's going to be very expensive to the taxpayers of Alabama," explained McDaniel.

McDaniel said the more time spent trying to impeach, the more it'll cost the average citizen.

"It's coming out of the budget. That money is coming out of somewhere," said McDaniel.

McDaniel said that for legislators to hold a Special Session for the impeachment of Governor Bentley, it could cost you, the taxpayer, upwards of $500,000 for all the man hours and legal costs.

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