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Committee recommends no further action in petitions against Gov. Beshear and AG Cameron

Posted at 10:59 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 19:47:06-05

(LEX 18) — Kentucky's Impeachment Committee recommended on Tuesday that no further action be taken on the petitions to remove Gov. Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron from office.

The committee voted after deliberating for more than four hours in executive session.

"The committee has found that none of the allegations made against the Governor nor the Attorney General rise to the level of impeachable offenses," said Rep. Jason Nemes, the chairman of the committee.

Thursday's meeting was the eighth time the committee had met since four citizens filed a petition on January 8 to impeach the governor.

The petition argued that Beshear had violated Kentuckians' individual rights through his orders to stop the spread of COVID-19.

On January 22, three grand jurors in the Breonna Taylor case also filed a petition to remove Attorney General Daniel Cameron from office. They alleged he misrepresented the grand jury's findings and broke the public's trust.

Over the course of the committee's eight meetings, few hours were spent on record where the public could see and hear what was happening. About 17 hours were spent behind closed doors in executive sessions.

"Until this year, Impeachment Committees in Kentucky have been completely closed," said Nemes while defending the committee's transparency.

"The model that we've taken, and I've said this publicly at this table, is based off of the Kentucky Supreme Court and what it does," said Nemes. "It has all the papers and testimonies and arguments that are made to the [court] are public - as they were here. Then, the Kentucky Supreme Court would then retire to its conference room, which in our situation - same language - ours is executive session."

So, for weeks now, the public didn't know what the committee was discussing. Their reports on the Beshear and Cameron petitions are a window into that closed room.

Both impeachment reports say the petitions could have been dismissed entirely, but the committee chose not to do that "due to the seriousness of these allegations and because summary dismissal would likely invite a subsequent petition."

The report on the Beshear petition says the petitioners had the responsibility of proving "misdemeanors in office" occurred and they did not do that.

"The Petition does not state how the purported violations meet the standard for impeachment other than to nakedly list various constitutional sections," reads the report.

Even on the more contentious counts, like the one alleging Beshear violated religious rights by restricting in-person gatherings at churches and religious schools, the report doesn't find impeachable actions.

"Even though some courts found the Governor's orders to be violative of certain individual liberties, many were also cognizant that these orders were issued by the Governor on behalf of a good faith effort to curb the spread of the virus in the Commonwealth," the report reads. "This Committee thus finds that the executive orders do not rise to the level of impeachment - even assuming the executive orders were unlawful."

"As a practical matter, if a constitutional officer is impeached every time he or she loses in court, impeachment will lead to paralysis."

The report on the petition against the Attorney General maintained a similar tone.

"Their Petition still fails to come anywhere near the high showing required for impeachment," the report reads.

On Wednesday, Beshear addressed the impeachment committee's decision.

"I think they made the right choice," said Beshear. "Now, I hope that in Frankfort, we can all be adults in the room and move forward and leave it behind."

There are no current petitions before the Impeachment Committee. However, new ones can still be filed. Although, there is a bill in the House of Representatives that would eliminate citizen impeachment petitions. House Bill 378 would only allow impeachment petitions to be filed by members of the Kentucky House of Representatives.