Governors

Alabama governor will face impeachment hearings after state Supreme Court ruling

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks during a news conference on Friday, April 7, 2017, outside the Alabama Capitol building in Montgomery, Ala.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks during a news conference on Friday, April 7, 2017, outside the Alabama Capitol building in Montgomery, Ala.  (AP)

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled on Saturday to allow lawmakers to move ahead with an effort to oust Gov. Robert Bentley, who is fighting to stay in office amid fallout from an affair with a top aide.

Bentley will face impeachment hearings beginning on Monday.

The state Supreme Court reversed a short-lived victory for Bentley when a judge on Friday blocked impeachment proceedings. After the high court's ruling, the House Judiciary Committee quickly announced plans to proceed with hearings on Monday.

The 74-year-old Republican has been engulfed in a sex scandal since recordings surfaced in 2016 of him making suggestive remarks to a female aide before he and his wife of 50 years got divorced.

Bentley vowed to stay in office despite calls for his resignation. He stood on the state Capitol steps on Friday and acknowledged making personal mistakes but maintained he did nothing to merit his removal from office.

"I do not plan to resign. I have done nothing illegal,” Bentley said. “If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no. I have not.”

The Supreme Court justices asked for briefs on the matter to be filed by Monday.

"It's disappointing to hear the committee will plow forward while the Supreme Court is considering the case. We have no idea what the committee has planned for Monday or who its witnesses will be," Bentley's lawyer, Ross Garber said.

Special Counsel Jack Sharman said the committee's position was that it is free to proceed with the hearings.

"I want to thank the members of the Alabama Supreme Court for quickly acting on our appeal and recognizing, what a circuit court judge didn't understand, that there are three branches of government and the Alabama Legislature is free to conduct its business as prescribed in the state constitution," House Judiciary Chairman Mike Jones said in a statement.

The committee, following a week or so of hearings, will make a recommendation to the full House of Representatives on whether Bentley should be impeached.

The Alabama Ethics Commission on Wednesday found probable cause that Bentley broke ethics and campaign law and referred the matter for possible prosecution.

Sharman wrote that Bentley encouraged an "an atmosphere of intimidation" in his administration to keep his romantic relationship secret and sent two state law enforcement officers to try to track down and retrieve a recording of a sexually-charged phone call he made to a woman presumed to be Mason.

"Gov. Bentley directed law enforcement to advance his personal interests and, in a process characterized by increasing obsession and paranoia, subjected career law enforcement officers to tasks intended to protect his reputation," the report to the House Judiciary Committee which was publicly released on Friday said.

The governor's lawyer called the report an "amalgam of hearsay rumor and innuendo."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.