Alabama governor halts impeachment, not disparaging report

Apr 17, 2017, 04:50

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks during a news conference in Mobile, Alabama July 2, 2012.

(Albert Cesare /The Montgomery Advertiser via AP).

The Alabama House Judicial Committee kept a promise to release its report Friday, even while Bentley's attorneys fought to withhold it in court.

"Once again, let me say, I do not plan to resign", he told reporters without taking questions.

The Republican leader of the Alabama Senate has also urged Bentley to resign, saying he is not being an effective leader for the state.

Impeachment hearings for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley are set to start Monday.

The stunning events capped a wild week in Alabama politics.

The governor's lawyers argued the process was unfair to Bentley, while Sharman said impeachment proceedings were a legislative matter outside the court's jurisdiction.

Calls to Bentley's legal team and a representative were not immediately returned.

Earlier this week, the state Ethics Commission found probable cause that the Republican governor broke state ethics and campaign finance laws, accusations Bentley denies.

Bentley's troubles began last year when recordings surfaced of him making suggestive remarks to a former senior adviser, Rebekah Mason, before his wife of 50 years filed for divorce in August 2015.

Bentley, a former Baptist deacon, used the language of his religion during his Friday public appearance, acknowledging "personal struggles" and asking for prayer.

To keep his relationship with Mason under wraps, "Governor Bentley encouraged an atmosphere of intimidation", it says.

"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 meant to protect his reputation", the report said.

"They clearly understood this is a significant and historic issue regarding the separation of powers between the branches of government and clearly want to address it", Jack Sharman, the House Judiciary Committee's special counsel, said in a phone interview Saturday afternoon. Bentley also directed law enforcement staffers to try to uncover who had recorded conversations of him and Mason, Sharman wrote.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin on Friday said he was granting the governor's request for a temporary restraining order.

The lower court ruling prohibited the House Judiciary Committee from holding impeachment hearings. State Auditor Jim Zeigler accused Bentley of using state resources to pursue an affair with Mason, a former television anchor who became so powerful, she was known as Alabama's "de facto governor". He says he probably saw a couple of these, and recalls language like: "I'm glad you're my friend" or "you're handsome".