Facing a series of impeachment hearings and criminal charges for using state resources to cover-up his extramarital affair with a former staffer, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley resigned this week before pleading guilty to two misdemeanors. As part of his plea deal, Bentley agreed to forfeit the funds in his campaign account and to never run for public office again.
In 2014, Bentley accidentally sent a text to his wife intended for his political adviser and mistress, Rebekah Mason, that said, “I love you, Rebekah.”
After accessing her husband’s phone, Dianne Bentley discovered text messages between the governor and Mason with conversations including “I’m yours forever” and “I love you so much.”
Bentley’s wife later used her cellphone to record her husband’s conversations with Mason, who is also married. During one of the recorded phone calls, the governor told Mason, “You know what, when, when I stand behind you, and I, and I, and I put my arms around you and I put my hands on your breasts and I put my hands and [unintelligible] and just, and pull you in real close.”
After asking one of her aides to burn the recorded conversations onto CDs, Bentley’s wife hid the evidence from her obsessive husband. Using law enforcement to intimidate and harass innocent people in an attempt to locate the CDs, Bentley abused his position to cover-up his affair.
Last year, Alabama’s former Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier revealed that he had been fired for refusing to participate in covering up the governor’s affair. Collier also publicly released the audio recordings of Bentley’s lurid conversations with Mason.
During a press conference, Collier stated, “I explained to Gov. Bentley it would be a crime if he has used state resources to facilitate a relationship or if he used campaign funds to facilitate the relationship.”
In March 2016, Bentley denied the affair at a press conference while Mason resigned from her position that same month. Mason’s husband, Jon Mason, recently lost his state job as the director of SERVE Alabama, the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Volunteer Services, after Mason and his wife failed to report tens of thousands of dollars on their income taxes.
Last week, Bentley’s Republican colleagues, Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and Senate Majority Leader Del Marsh, asked the governor to resign after learning he had abused state resources and campaign funds. Initially refusing to resign, Bentley later agreed to immediately leave office before pleading guilty to failing to file a major campaign contribution report regarding a $50,000 personal loan and using campaign donations to pay his mistress.
According to his plea deal, the former governor also agreed to never seek public office in the future, pay a series of fines, perform 100 hours of community service, and surrender his remaining campaign funds to the state. Although a judge sentenced Bentley to 30 days in jail, the judge suspended his sentence and ordered the former governor to serve a year of probation instead.
Elected Lt. Governor in 2010, Kay Ivey was sworn in as Governor of Alabama on Monday following Bentley’s abrupt resignation.
In 2006, Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was convicted of bribery, mail fraud, and obstruction of justice while in office. In April 1993, Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt had been convicted on a felony charge of violating state ethics laws and was immediately removed from office.