State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, representing the 9th Senatorial District, state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, representing the 22nd Legislative District, and state Rep. Kevin Brooks, District 24, said impeachment proceedings could be started in January after the Tennessee General Assembly returns to session.
Bell is secretary on the Senate Judiciary Committee while Watson is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
“Rumors abound in the 10th Judicial District and other areas of Tennessee as to the validity of the accusations of misconduct against District Attorney Steve Bebb,” Watson said.
“The integrity of the system of justice in the 10th District and in our state should not be determined by mere rumors — nor should the reputation of Steve Bebb.”
Bebb’s office is alleged to have fumbled important cases through ineptness or misconduct, misused taxpayer money and played favorites during criminal prosecutions.
Bell, Watson and Brooks said they have heard from constituents who fear the allegations will be ignored.
“I’ve heard from constituents in all four counties,” said Bell, whose senate district overlaps the 10th Judicial District in Bradley, McMinn and Polk counties. Monroe County is in the 10th Judicial District, but it is represented by state Sen. Randy McNally in the 5th Senatorial District.
Watson represents Bradley and Polk counties. State Rep. John Forgety represents McMinn and Monroe counties in the 23rd Legislative District of the House of Representatives.
Brooks represents Cleveland in the 24th Legislative District.
Brooks said, “I am hearing from concerned constituents about the DA. They are asking for the matter to be looked into. If my constituents are concerned, then we are obligated to respond and act.”
No attempts were made to contact McNally or Forgety
Bebb said Saturday morning he is looking forward to telling the Cleveland Daily Banner his side of the story in a personal interview.
“I haven’t been able to tell my side of the story,” he said. “But I want to do it in person because it is a long story.”
Watson said from his perspective, ignoring the allegations would be unfair to the public and to Bebb.
“Having served many years as a law enforcement officer and as a member of the lawmaking body of our state, I know the most important aspect of the administration of justice is fulfilling the desire of all concerned for the truth to be known and justice to be administered fairly,” Watson said.
“I believe this will take place.”
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee reiterated it is the duty of public officials to ensure the questions are answered.
“If rumors or statements alleging misconduct are true, then action should take place, either voluntarily by District Attorney Bebb or by the appropriate authorities including the Tennessee House of Representatives, to ensure our laws are properly administered,” Watson pointed out.
“District Attorney Bebb has been seriously maligned by the information presented.”
Watson added, “If the alleged charges are untrue, he should be cleared of these allegations by the appropriate authorities and the rumors should be dispelled.”
Bell said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation might look into the allegations.
“The allegations need to be laid to rest one way or another as soon as possible for the sake of the public, General Bebb and his staff,” Bell stressed.
Watson concurred with Bell that the TBI could be asked to step in.
“It is possible the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or other authorities may be involved in an investigation and their investigation could result in the presentation of charges to either a federal or state grand jury,” Watson said.
“Allegations of ethical considerations could also be considered by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility.”
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said the House of Representatives could commence impeachment proceedings after it convenes in January 2013.
Article 5 of the Tennessee Constitution governs the impeachment process. The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment.
Any possible impeachment would have to be first submitted to the House of Representatives. The House would conduct hearings through its committee structure to determine if grounds exist for returning a Bill of Impeachment or Articles of Impeachment.
Impeachment proceedings do not affect any other potential penalties imposed in any other forum.
Articles of Impeachment specify the offense charged by the House with the same legal correctness required in any indictment and the accused is afforded all of the rights as in any other case.
Officials facing impeachment are suspended from their duties pending the Senate trial with the Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court presiding. The trial is required to take place immediately following the conclusion of the regular legislative session.
Articles of Impeachment require a simple majority vote of the House; however, a conviction requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate.
“I am not expressing an opinion regarding what the evidence would show if this issue is presented to the House of Representatives,” Watson said. “Essentially, the House of Representatives serves as a grand jury and the Senate serves as a jury in this process.”