FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The Kentucky House Impeachment Committee met behind closed doors for about three hours on Friday, then emerged to announce two of the three impeachment petitions filed against Gov. Andy Beshear have been dismissed.
The seven-member panel, consisting of four Republicans and three Democrats, was named by House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, after four men filed an eight-count petition, in which they claimed closings, restrictions and other actions taken by the governor during the COVID-19 pandemic, were unconstitutional. One of the men has since withdrawn his name from the petition.
After Osborne named the committee, which also includes two alternate members, one Republican and one Democrat, other petitions were filed.
One, signed by eight people, seeks the impeachment of Rep. Robert Goforth, R-East Bernstadt, who faces first-degree strangulation and fourth-degree assault charges at Laurel Circuit Court, which allegedly involved his wife as the victim. No action was taken on this petition on Friday.
Another petition was signed by four people, including three members of the Jefferson County grand jury who heard the Breonna Taylor case, seeking the impeachment of Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Two more petitions were filed against Beshear: one on behalf of Take Back Kentucky, and the other by the Kentucky Liberty Pac. Those two were the ones dismissed.
Committee Chair, Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, read the dismissals: “Upon consideration and review by the 2021 Regular Session Impeachment Committee, the petition of Gov. Andrew Beshear, styled as ‘Impeach Beshear,’ received on Feb. 1, 2021, by the Kentucky Liberty Pac is dismissed. So ordered this fifth day of February 2021.”
The other dismissal contained identical language, except it identified Take Back Kentucky as the petitioner.
The other two actions involved the original petition against the governor and attorney general.
Nemes says they sent a letter to Gov. Beshear’s General Counsel, Amy Cubbage, “requesting some follow-up information.”
A similar letter seeking follow-up information was also sent to Attorney General Cameron, according to Nemes.
“This committee was the first in the history of Kentucky to make our proceedings public. All evidence we received has been made public, all testimony, if we receive testimony, will be public. Deliberations will be of a private nature,” Nemes said.
Impeachment has been a rare procedure in Kentucky, with only four known instances, according to the Legislative Research Commission.
In 1803, Bourbon County Surveyor Thomas Jones was impeached for overcharging the state for his services, failure to perform his duties and surveying the wrong tracts of land.
Although Jones resigned before his Senate trial, the tribunal determined that did not terminate their authority and continued the case. The Senate found him guilty of five of the 22 charges he faced, and permanently disqualified him from office.
In 1888, State Treasurer “Honest Dick” Tate disappeared with most of the funds in the state treasury. Although he and the money were never found, he was tried and convicted in absentia. It is believed he made off with nearly $200,000.
In 1916, McCreary County Judge J.E. Williams was impeached for allegedly committing misfeasance and malfeasance in office. He was not removed from office, because the Senate did not reach the necessary 2/3 vote to convict.
In 1991, Agriculture Commissioner Ward “Butch” Burnette was impeached after he was found guilty in Franklin Circuit Court of felony theft by deception, for falsifying a department employee’s timesheet. He was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $1,500.
He was impeached by the House, but hours before his trial was to begin, Burnette resigned from office, and the Senate voted to terminate proceedings.
Nemes says the House Impeachment Committee will meet again next week.