Lawmakers impeach Robert Bentley over what they called “incompetency” and an inability to lead in the state of Alabama. The political and constitutional support for removing the governor — which the Alabama Constitution is hazy on — remains uncertain.
The chair of the committee that will consider the lawmakers impeachment in a separate committee that would deliberate the grounds, according to New York Daily News. But the impeachment attempt represents the latest challenge for Bentley amid a scandal over his relationship with a former staffer.
The five-page resolution, sponsored by Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle on Tuesday, accuses Bentley of “willful neglect of duty,” “corruption in office,” “incompetency” and “offenses of moral turpitude.”
The resolution reflects accusations made by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier that Robert Bentley had an affair with Rebekah Mason, who served as his political adviser until resigning last week.
As lawmakers impeach Robert Bentley, the governor has acknowledged making suggestive comments to Mason, but both he and Mason deny having an affair. The governor has also denied a Collier accusation that he used state resources to pursue the affair.
“We’ve never done this before,” Henry said at a press conference Tuesday. “We’ve never tried to impeach a governor.” But he added the “process begins today.”
Bentley in a statement called the move “political grandstanding” meant to distract the state from pressing issues.
“There are no grounds for impeachment, and I will vigorously defend myself and my administration from this political attack,” the statement said.
In a March 23 press conference, Collier said he discovered evidence of an affair between Bentley and Rebekah Mason in 2014 while Bentley was married to his wife Dianne. The Bentleys divorced last fall, ending their 50-year marriage.
Audio of Bentley making suggestive comments in a phone conversation has since surfaced.
Collier accused Bentley and Mason of using state funds to pursue the affair, though he said he had no proof. Bentley acknowledged making inappropriate remarks to Mason, and said he had apologized for them. The Alabama Ethics Commission has indicated it will investigate the allegations.
Bentley fired Collier on March 22, saying an audit of ALEA raised concerns, “including possible misuse of state funds.” Collier strongly denies any wrongdoing.
Questions have arisen about how Mason, who has not been on the state payroll since 2013, received compensation. Mason said she got paid by Bentley’s campaign and the Alabama Council for Excellent Government (ACEGOV), a group formed to promote Bentley’s agenda. Mason said last month ACEGOV paid her $15,000 in 2015. The group has not filed a 990 form and says it is a 501(c)(4) organization; those groups do not have to disclose donors.
ACEGOV gave a $2,500 donation to the Alabama Republican Party last year despite its incorporation papers saying it would not make political contributions.
Alabama’s Constitution allows for impeachment of constitutional officers for a broad range of actions, not all illegal. The state’s governing document allows for the removal of officers for “willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or intemperance in the use of intoxicating liquors or narcotics . . . as unfits the officer for the discharge of such duties, or for any offense involving moral turpitude.”
While Lawmakers impeach Robert Bentley, the impeachment articles incorporate some of Collier’s accusations, particularly on the allegations of an affair. But they also accuse Bentley of being deceptive in campaigning for re-election in 2014 on not raising taxes, and then pushing a $728 million tax and revenue package to shore up the General Fund last year. Henry also said the tapes of Bentley’s suggestive comments undermined his credibility.