FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A legislative panel wrapped up its review of a flurry of impeachment efforts targeting the top levels of Kentucky government, recommending Tuesday night that the Democratic governor and the Republican attorney general not face removal from office.
A handful of Kentuckians filed separate petitions weeks ago against Gov. Andy Beshear for his coronavirus-related restrictions and Attorney General Daniel Cameron for his handling of the Breonna Taylor death investigation.
Both leaders had denounced the petitions as meritless. Others saw the Bluegrass State impeachment frenzy as reflecting the bitter political divide dominating public discourse nationally.
The House Impeachment Committee reached its decision after the latest in a series of long meetings, mostly behind closed doors. The panel's recommendation that no further action be taken on the petitions against Beshear and Cameron will be submitted to the GOP-dominated House.
“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 GOP Rep. Jason Nemes, the panel's chairman.
The bipartisan panel took voice votes without any discussion to approve the recommendations.
The petition against Beshear accused him of constitutional violations for his restrictions to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Beshear says his virus-related orders have saved lives, and he portrayed 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 impeachment panel's report said its conclusion that no allegations rose to the level of impeachable offenses doesn't mean all its members agreed with the governor's actions. The panel consists of four Republicans and three Democrats.
“But it means that this committee does not believe the proper response is impeachment, but rather for the legislature to enact policies to address its disagreements and for the people to weigh in by voting during the next gubernatorial election,” the panel's report said.
The state's Republican lawmakers enacted measures recently to limit the governor's emergency powers, contending that Beshear overreached with restrictions on businesses and individuals. Beshear immediately sued, setting up a showdown over the constitutionality of the new laws.
The legislative panel previously dismissed other impeachment efforts against Beshear after determining those petitions — also based on his COVID actions — were deficient.
The petition against Cameron included three grand jurors who criticized his handling of the investigation into Taylor’s shooting death by police last year. One officer was charged for allegedly firing into an adjacent apartment, but the three grand jurors said prosecutors never gave them the option to consider charges against the officers who fatally shot Taylor.
In its report, the impeachment panel said the outcome of grand jury proceedings depend “on the decisions of the jurors themselves.” If the jurors had wanted to dig deeper into other possible charges, “they had the ability to do so and the petitioners have produced no evidence to the contrary,” the report said.
The petition also alleged Cameron breached public trust and failed to comply with his duties in his handling of the Taylor case and then misrepresented the grand jury’s work to the public.
The impeachment panel rejected those claims, saying: “Even if the committee were to find that the attorney general made a misstatement (which it does not), the committee would be hard pressed to find that a public officer could be impeached for merely misstating information at a voluntary press conference, perhaps inadvertently.”
Cameron stood by his investigation into the Black woman’s death, which fueled protests over racial injustice. He says his team followed the law and presented a thorough case to the grand jury, adding the petition against him was "lacking in legal and factual support.”
After the committee's actions late Tuesday, Nemes said “our work is concluded.” One matter is still pending — Beshear and Cameron can submit expenses they incurred in responding to the impeachment petitions, which could be submitted to the petitioners.
The panel also previously dismissed an impeachment petition against Republican state Rep. Robert Goforth after two law professors testified that impeachment doesn’t apply to legislators under the state’s constitution. Goforth, a former gubernatorial candidate, was indicted last year for allegedly trying to strangle a woman. Goforth has pleaded not guilty.