Kentucky Politics

A legislative committee dismissed a petition to impeach Republican state Rep. Robert Goforth, who was indicted for allegedly strangling and threatening to kill his wife last year. 

The Kentucky House of Representatives Impeachment Committee is still reviewing petitions against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

But on Thursday night, the panel heard testimony from two law professors who argued state law doesn’t allow for the impeachment of legislators.

Paul Salamanca, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, said it was a matter of constitutionality.

“The Kentucky Constitution does not allow the impeachment of a member of the General Assembly under any circumstances,” Salamanca said.

Salamanca said the state constitution only allows for the impeachment of the governor and “all other civil officers.” Legislators don’t fall into the “other civil officers” category, Salamanca said.

University of Kentucky law professor Josh Douglas agreed.

“There’s only two categories of people that can be impeached—the governor and other civil officers—and virtually every mention of a civil officer excludes legislators,” Douglas said.

Eight citizens from the 89th House district, which includes Jackson and parts of Madison and Laurel counties, filed the petition to impeach Goforth last month. They said he should be removed for “breach of public trust, felonious acts of violence upon women, abuse of office and state property, and other misfeasance and malfeasance.”

Goforth was charged last April with felony strangulation, assault and terroristic after his wife alleged he attempted to hogtie her in front of their children at their home in East Bernstadt and threatened to kill her.

Goforth denies the allegations. A criminal case against him is ongoing in Laurel County and will have a hearing next week.

Douglas said “the allegations are, of course, disturbing, but they are also irrelevant to the legal question at issue.

Although Goforth lost the 2019 Republican gubernatorial primary to incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin, he still managed to win 39% of the vote in that race.

He owns several pharmacies in southeastern Kentucky and on the legislature’s website lists one of his occupations as “substance abuse prevention educator.”

The committee is still reviewing petitions to impeach Beshear and Cameron, but has not publicly discussed the cases since last week.

Four citizens petitioned to remove Beshear last month over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Three grand jurors from the Breonna Taylor case petitioned to remove Cameron, saying he misrepresented grand jury proceedings to the public.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.