STATE AND LOCAL

Alabama's 'luv gov' accused of abusing power in impeachment hearing

Spirited Debate: Ellen Ratner and Kevin McCullough on the scandal involving Robert Bentley

 

Impeachment hearings began Monday for Alabama’s sexting septuagenarian Gov. Robert Bentley, following a chaotic few days where the “luv gov” defiantly refused to resign -- but also pleaded for forgiveness.

Bentley, a Republican in his second term, is confronting a slew of allegations related to “improper communications” he had with his senior political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Dubbed the “luv gov” by the press, Bentley, who was married at the time, also is accused of demanding state workers help him cover up his relationship -- and abusing the power of his office to create a climate of fear and intimidation.

“This committee today is a theater being watched by the people of Alabama and the nation,” state House Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones said. “I trust we will all approach this with a fair and open mind.” 

Monday’s impeachment hearing is the first ever directed at a governor in the state. 

On Friday, the state’s House Judiciary Committee released a 130-page report that alleges Bentley abused his power and went to great lengths to keep his affair under wraps.

Jack Sharman, special counsel to the state’s House Judiciary Committee and author of the report, said 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.”

He also said Bentley and his office “did not meaningfully cooperate” with the investigation.

As proceedings got underway Monday, multiple media outlets in Alabama were reporting that the 74-year-old politician is now negotiating the terms of his exit with state lawmakers and a decision could come as early as this week.

A spokesperson for the governor, however, said in a statement that Bentley “is not personally involved in any negotiations” and declined further comment.

The governor has remained defiant through most of the year-long investigation into his actions.

At a news conference on Friday, he at first said he's faced major struggles and asked Alabamians to "please forgive me." He then said he wasn't going anywhere. 

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

Others beg to differ on the salacious scandal that’s gripped Alabama residents and garnered national media attention.

On Wednesday, the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that Bentley – a dermatologist and Baptist Deacon – violated state ethics and campaign finance laws.

The report was sent to the Montgomery County District Attorney for further investigation and “possible prosecution.”

Aside from being removed from office, Bentley could face two felony charges that carry up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $20,000 per violation.

Things only went downhill from there for the governor.

On Sunday, the Alabama Republican Party passed a resolution that called on Bentley to resign immediately.

“The Alabama Republican Party holds their elected officials accountable and demands the utmost integrity of office holders,” it said in a statement.