Gunn looking for ways to remove McLeod from office if domestic violence allegations “prove to be true”

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/Report For America

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn

House Speaker Philip Gunn said Friday morning he is asking legislative staff to explore methods of removing Reg. Doug McLeod, R-Lucedale, from office if the allegations that he assaulted his wife “prove to be true.”

In a statement, the second term speaker, said, “My office is proactively dealing with this situation on many fronts. I have requested the House legal staff to research our options for action as this case unfolds. I have contacted the chairman of the House Ethics Committee and requested the committee to closely monitor this case and determine what steps need to be taken.

“Finally, if the allegations prove to be true, I have requested the House legal staff to research the correct process for the removal of the member if he does not voluntarily resign.”

According to public records, McLeod, a second term member representing District 107 in southeast Mississippi, is charged with domestic violence. He is accused of punching his wife in the face, bloodying her nose, after he thought she was undressing for sex too slowly. Deputies with the George County Sheriff’s Department who arrived at McLeod’s home Saturday night report the lawmaker was visibly drunk, slurring his words and unable to stand without leaning on a guardrail.

He was released from custody on a $1,000 signature bond, meaning he did not have to pay any cash to be released.

It was not clear Friday what would have to occur for the speaker to believe the allegations were true – whether it would require a conviction in a court of law.

Nathan Wells, a spokesperson in the speaker’s office, said “This is uncharted territory for us.” He said the speaker’s office is in discussions with the legal staff and would make decisions as the case unfolds.

Removing an elected member of the Legislature from office has not been attempted in recent memory. But the state Constitution does give legislators the authority to remove a member for “disorderly behavior” by a two-thirds vote..

McLeod is unopposed for re-election this year.

Legislators have resigned through the years after facing legal issues.

Before the 2019 session started, both House Pro Tem Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, and then-Senate Pro Tem Terry Burton, R-Newton, were charged with driving under the influence. Burton, who had been convicted of a previous DUI, stepped down from the pro tem position and announced he would not seek re-election this year.

Snowden pleaded no contest and remains as pro tem – the second ranking House member.

Gov. Phil Bryant could not be reached Friday morning to comment on Gunn’s statement.