Alabama Governor Facing Impeachment Over Affair With Aide and Possible Embezzlement
Another day, another scandal. Now it’s Alabama Governor Robert Bentley that’s in the hot seat. The Alabama state legislature will meet next week on impeaching him, Fox News reported.
It all stemmed from last year when the then 73 year old governor admitted to making inappropriate remarks, both in person and in text, to his senior political advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Both parties said that the relationship went no further than that.
But in March, when Bentley fired Spencer Collier as the Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Spencer went public. He released an audio recording of a 2014 phone conversation between Bentley and Mason to Mobile-based news site Al.com. The twenty-four minute recording occurred when Bentley and his wife, Diane, were on vacation. Diane suspected her husband was cheating, so she left her cell phone on record and then took a walk on the beach.
The highly charged language, released to reporters by Collier, was inappropriate and was clearly a man talking to his mistress. He talked about a particular pair of boxer shorts saying, “you’ve seen those.” Among many other things, Bentley is heard on the recording claiming he “loved kissing and touching,” her. He also specifically referenced sexual encounters with her.
“If we are going to do what we did the other day, we are going to have to start locking the door,” Bentley spoke in the recording.
Diane filed for divorce not long after, ending their fifty-year marriage. Both Bentley and Mason publicly claimed the relationship had progressed no further than the words. This is highly implausible considering the actual words. But Mason resigned as soon as the scandal broke and Bentley’s political opponents began the impeachment process, calling for his resignation.
Representative Ed Henry, who was driving the proceedings last year, told NBC News, “We’re looking at this governor who has essentially betrayed the trust of the people of Alabama.This is about the actions and lies that have caused us some doubts about his leadership. If he truly loves the people of this state, he will step down.”
Further, he went on to say about half of the state legislature supports the motion. The impeachment processe was begun last year by State House Minority Leader Craig Ford. He believes that since it is a Republican leading the impeachment, it has more support.
“We support it,” Ford told Al.com, last year. “We look forward to working across party lines. We’re encouraged to see that someone within the Republican Party was taking the lead in this endeavor. The governor’s the Republican’s poster child, so we were hoping they would police their own party.”
However, it’s not all on moral principle. Bentley and Mason have traversed murky waters. They faced investigation on the Ethics Commission on misuse of government property and some grey areas in how Mason was paid. Her paycheck was funneled through a welfare non-profit agency. Overall, Republican Representative Ed Henry told Fox News last year, that he was just not governing well. He referenced Bentley’s “incompetence and moral turpitude.”
However, Bentley has in the past year refused to resign, and continues to deny the inappropriate relationship.
“There are no grounds for impeachment and I will vigorously defend myself and administration from this political attack,” he Tweeted last April.
In April the impeachment was to go to court but the Attorney General at the time, Luther Strange, suspended the impeachment proceedings for “related work.”
He was trying to get a grand jury to look into the governor’s misuse of public funds, which brings the entire matter full circle as Collier was originally fired as a scapegoat for the governor’s spending habits.
“We are temporarily suspending activity at the attorney general’s request but we are not abdicating our responsibility,” Strange wrote in November. “Everything the committee has done remains in effect. I respectfully request that the Committee cease active interviews and investigation until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed.”
Everyone went back to work, more or less for several months. The governor, high and mighty, swore he wanted to get back to helping the people of Alabama.
Then, in February, Luther Strange was promoted, the Atlantic Reported. When Jeff Sessions was appointed to Attorney General, he left a vacancy in the Alabama U.S Senate. Guess who got moved to Washington? That’s right. Luther Strange was appointed to the U.S Senate. Bentley then appointed Steve Marshall to fill Strange’s Attorney General post. Marshall, rightly, recused himself of the investigation of Bentley, and handed the investigation over to the District Attorney.
Now, Fox News reports, the Committee is waiting on clearance from Marshall to pick the investigation back up. The meeting will convene on Tuesday.