Top legislators say no forcing out Indiana attorney general Curtis Hill

By TOM DAVIES, Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Top Republican legislative leaders don't expect lawmakers will take any action toward removing state Attorney General Curtis Hill from office even though the governor and other state officials have called on him to resign over allegations that he drunkenly groped four women during a party.

House Speaker Brian Bosma told reporters Monday that he anticipates some legislators to push for Hill's impeachment, while downplaying the chances of the Republican-dominated Legislature taking any action during its session that begins in early January.

"My honest opinion on this is it will be such a distraction that it would be all we did this session" and take focus away from other important matters, Bosma said. "I think this would be an unneeded distraction."

A special prosecutor declined last month to pursue any criminal charges against Hill, despite a state report that witnesses said the Republican attorney general touched the women inappropriately during a March party at an Indianapolis bar celebrating the end of the 2018 legislative session.

Hill has denied groping Democratic state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and three legislative staffers, who have said they intend to sue Hill, the state of Indiana and the attorney general's office on claims including assault, battery, defamation and false imprisonment.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Secretary of State Connie Lawson and Bosma — all Republicans — were among state leaders who said Hill should resign after the allegations became public in July.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Messmer of Jasper said Hill's future should now be decided by the voters. Hill's term runs through 2020.

"There won't be any legislative action to force him out. If he's not been convicted of a felony, there's no real reason to move that issue forward," Messmer said. "Leave it up to the voters next election cycle."

Bosma and Messmer both spoke after a legislative preview conference during which Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar said the business group supported the idea of making the attorney general position one appointed by the governor rather being an elected office.

Lawmakers are poised to move up the effective date of a law making the state schools superintendent an appointed position starting in 2021, rather than 2025, after current Superintendent Jennifer McCormick announced last month she wouldn't seek re-election.

Brinegar said the attorney general ought to be the governor's lawyer rather than having a separate agenda.

Bosma drew some audience laughs by stretching out the word "awkward" when asked about making the attorney general an appointed position.

Too many questions about the timing of such a change would come up by debating it now, said Bosma, who has also faced allegations from a former legislative intern that they had a 1992 sexual fling while he was a House member. Bosma has denied the allegation and the woman's claims that he tried to intimidate her with a campaign-funded investigation by a private attorney this year in order to keep her quiet.

Hill said in a statement that Indiana should remain among the 43 states with elected attorneys general.

"There will always be those who prefer to concentrate the levers of government in the hands of a powerful few, but I believe most Hoosiers value the freedom of electing their public servants by casting ballots," Hill said.

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