Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley resigned Monday in the face of impeachment hearings over allegations that he tapped state resources to facilitate and hide an extramarital affair with a former aide.
Bentley made the announcement, effective immediately, shortly after he was booked into Montgomery County Jail and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to campaign finance rules. He was charged with one count of failure to disclose information on a statement of economic interest, and for failure to file campaign finance reports, according to AL.com.
“I have decided it is time for me to step down as governor,” Bentley said. “I’m leaving this office that I have loved to focus on other and possibly more effective areas of service.”
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey was sworn in Monday night as the 54th governor of Alabama.
“I’ve not always made the right choices,” Bentley said during a brief announcement after which he did not take questions. “I’ve not always said the right things. Though I have sometimes failed, I’ve always tried to live up to the high expectations the people place on the person who holds this esteemed office.”
It was a stunning reversal for a governor, dubbed the “Luv Guv” by some local media and bloggers, who said as recently as Friday that he would not step down. But Bentley faced mounting pressure to resign, as well as expanding legal troubles.
On Monday, as impeachment hearings against the governor got underway, a local prosecutor referred the possibility of criminal charges — recommended by the state Ethics Commission — to Alabama’s acting attorney general in the investigation.
“Please note that this is not a recusal,” Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said in an email to CNN. “I simply did not want to interfere with an ongoing investigation by the acting AG that has been ongoing for several months.”
In his letter to Ellen Brooks, the acting attorney general in the Bentley investigation, Bailey said he wished not to duplicate or interfere with her probe.
Jack Sharman, the state House Judiciary Committee’s special counsel, has been investigating the governor for months, and on Friday he submitted to the committee a 130-page document alleging, among other things, that Bentley used state law enforcement officers to intimidate staffers and suppress news of his affair with former political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Bentley was desperate to keep news of the affair from spreading beyond the Governor’s Mansion, where it was apparently common knowledge among staffers, the report said. It paints a portrait of a dysfunctional executive branch plagued by the affair of a Nixonian governor whose “loyalty shifted from the State of Alabama to himself.”