With Carroll refusing to resign, the General Assembly could bring impeachment proceedings against him

07/28/2017 12:58 PM

UPDATED WITH OTHER OPTIONS: In the wake of a Pure Politics investigation into sexual assault allegations against Sen. Julian Carroll, the Frankfort lawmaker is refusing to resign his Senate seat, despite being stripped of his leadership position by his colleagues in the Democratic caucus and called on to resign.

With Carroll’s refusal to step down from the seat he has held since 2005, it puts Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and fellow members of the General Assembly in a precarious position of having to decide if they will bring impeachment proceedings against him.

The Senate could also take action on their own without involving the House. Section 39 of the 1891 Kentucky Constitution allows for each “House of the General Assembly may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish a member for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same cause, and may punish for contempt any person who refuses to attend as a witness, or to bring any paper proper to be used as evidence before the General Assembly, or either House thereof, or a Committee of either, or to testify concerning any matter which may be a proper subject of inquiry by the General Assembly, or offers or gives a bribe to a member of the General Assembly, or attempts by other corrupt means or device to control or influence a member to cast his vote or withhold the same.”

“The punishment and mode of proceeding for contempt in such cases shall be prescribed by law, but the term of imprisonment in any such case shall not extend beyond the session of the General Assembly.”

Stivers has been tight-lipped about what the Senate will do, telling Pure Politics this week, “(w)e’re still examining and reviewing the situation.”

The other option, impeachment, has only been brought on four occasions in Kentucky history, the last time in 1991 when lawmakers brought proceedings against then Agriculture Commissioner Ward “Butch” Burnette, who resigned from office as his impeachment trial for theft was about to begin in the state Senate.

The Legislative Research Commission released a 76 page document in 1991, in an effort to assist lawmakers when pursuing the rarely used option.

According to Section 68 of Kentucky’s 1891 Constitution, the “Governor and all civil officers” are liable to impeachment by the House of Representatives and trial by the state Senate.

Lawyers for the House and Senate are likely now reviewing procedural questions of impeachment in Kentucky.

According to the 1991 LRC guide, the question of who can be impeached is clear, but the question of “what is impeachable conduct is more complex.”

“Because impeachment is a power vested solely in the legislature, the general rule is that the definition of impeachable conduct is exclusively a matter to be determined by the legislature,” the LRC document reads.

The Kentucky Constitution says impeachment is a remedy for when a public officer has committed “misdemeanors in office,” the 1991 document says. However, the term does not have the same connotation as in the judicial sense.

“Rather ‘misdemeanor’ in this context has been defined as any activity involving a breach of the public trust, or any act which can be construed as misfeasance or malfeasance.”

According to the Kentucky Constitution, the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment. All impeachments shall be tried by the Senate, the Constitution says. No person shall be convicted in the Senate without the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senators present.

When bringing an impeachment in the House of Representatives, statute says that the body can bring the proceedings on their own, or by petition. If a petition is received by the House, it is then referred to a committee, which is then considered to have subpoena power, and then is to investigate the matter and report back to the House on their findings, according to the LRC document.

If an impeachment is ordered in the House of Representatives, another committee is ordered to prosecute it, and the “committee chairman, shall within five (5) days, lay the impeachment before the Senate.”

The Senate then goes through a process to hold a hearing in the upper chamber. The Senate also must adopt Rules of Procedure to govern impeachment proceedings. State statute requires that the accused be summoned for a trial in the Senate.

“At the conclusion of the trial, the Senate votes on each Article of Impeachment separately in a roll call vote. No person shall be convicted absent the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senators of the Senate,” Section 67 of the Constitution states.

If the accused is found guilty of any or all of the articles of impeachment, a judgement is entered and that person is removed from office. A declaration can also be entered that states the civic officer be disqualified from holding “any office of honor, trust, or profit under the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Any proceeding of impeachment would be held when the General Assembly is in session. A special session later this year to deal with tax and pensions could be lawmakers first opportunity to also decide Carroll’s fate in the body.

Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics available exclusively on Spectrum News. Pure Politics is the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like his coverage of the backlog of DNA rape kits waiting to be tested in Kentucky. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Pure Politics airs weeknight at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Nick on Twitter @NStorm_Politics. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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