Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley Finally Resigns Amid Messy Political Scandal
Robert Bentley’s time as Alabama governor came to a close Monday, April 10, after allegations he violated campaign ethics laws and abused his power as the state’s chief executive to cover up an affair with a former staff member prompted him to resign.
“I can no longer allow my family, my dear friends, my dedicated staff and Cabinet, to be subjected to the consequences that my past actions have brought upon them,” Bentley said during a short address at the state capitol. “Though I have committed myself to working to improve the lives of the people of our state, there have been times when I have let you and our people down and I’m sorry.”
Bentley admitted his mistakes but said serving as Alabama’s governor was one of the greatest honors of his life.
Prior to announcing his resignation, the former governor pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor violation of the campaign finance law for failing to report a major campaign contribution and one misdemeanor violation of the ethics law for switching a campaign contribution for personal use, according to AL.com.
As part of a plea bargain with prosecutors, Bentley agreed to never run for public office again. He’ll be required to serve one year’s probation, complete 100 hours of community service and repay the $8,912 he used from his campaign fund to pay legal fees for former adviser Rebekah Mason, whom he allegedly had an affair with. Moreover, Bentley must forfeit the remaining $36,912 in his campaign account to the state treasury, AL.com reported.
The resignation comes just as the state’s House of Representatives starts its impeachment hearings over Bentley’s alleged campaign and ethics violations.
“He did what he did, and he deserves now to be called a criminal,” Ellen Brooks, a retired district attorney overseeing the state investigation, told the news site.
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) was sworn in to office just an hour after Bentley’s resignation at the capitol Monday afternoon. Ivey, 72, will be Alabama’s second female governor, following Democrat Lurleen Wallace, according to the Huffington Post.
“Today is both a dark day in Alabama, but yet also, it’s one of opportunity,” Ivey said after her swearing-in ceremony. “The Ivey administration will be open, it will be transparent and it will be honest.”
Calls for Bentley’s resignation came pouring in soon after a salacious phone call recording between the then-governor, 74, and Mason, 45, surfaced. During the conversation, Bentley was heard professing his love for his former aide and talked about feeling her breasts.
“Baby, let me know what I am going to do when I start locking the door,” he told Mason. “If we are going to do what we did the other day, we are going to have to start locking the door.”
Bentley resigned soon after the tapes emerged. Though he confessed to making the inappropriate remarks, he denied ever being physically involved with Mason. A damning report released by Alabama’s Judiciary Committee said different, however.
The report, published Friday, April 7, included testimony from the governor’s ex-wife and former staff detailing suspicious text messages and interactions between Bentley and Mason. Bentley’s security chief recalled seeing the younger aide leave the governor’s office with “tousled hair and making adjustments to her wardrobe.”
“Over time, the nature of the Bentley-Mason relationship also became more obvious to the governor’s staff,” the report read. “Zach Lee reported to Heather Hannah during the re-election campaign that Governor Bentley had begun to call Rebekah Mason ‘baby’ in meetings and that Governor Bentley and Mason frequently went to lunch together by themselves.”
State Rep. Corey Harbison (R-Ala.) called Bentley’s downfall “sad.”
“I hate that it all happened, but I’m thankful that the governor stepped aside,” he said. “We can begin to put this behind us.”