Bent­ley re­signs as im­peach­ment in­quiry looms


MONT­GOMERY, ALA. | Alabama Gov. Robert Bent­ley re­signed Mon­day rather than face im­peach­ment and pleaded guilty to two mis­de­meanor cam­paign vi­o­la­tions that arose dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his al­leged af­fair with a top aide.

In a re­mark­able fall, the mild-man­nered 74-yearold Repub­li­can and one­time Bap­tist dea­con stepped down as the sex-tinged scan­dal gath­ered force over the past few days. Leg­is­la­tors turned up the pres­sure by open­ing im­peach­ment hear­ings Mon­day.

Last week, the Alabama Ethics Com­mis­sion cited ev­i­dence that

Mr. Bent­ley broke state ethics and cam­paign laws and re­ferred the mat­ter to pros­e­cu­tors.

“There’ve been times that I let you and our peo­ple down, and I’m sorry for that,” Mr. Bent­ley said in the old House cham­ber of Alabama’s Capi­tol af­ter he pleaded guilty.

The vi­o­la­tions were dis­cov­ered dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his af­fair but were not di­rectly re­lated to it.

In court Mr. Bent­ley ap­peared sullen and looked down at the floor. One mis­de­meanor charge against Mr. Bent­ley stemmed from a $50,000 loan he made to his cam­paign in Novem­ber that in­ves­ti­ga­tors said he failed to re­port un­til Jan­uary. State law says ma­jor con­tri­bu­tions should be re­ported within a few days. The other charge stemmed from his use of cam­paign funds to pay nearly $9,000 in le­gal bills for po­lit­i­cal ad­viser Re­bekah Cald­well Ma­son last year.

“He did what he did, and he de­serves now to be called a crim­i­nal,” said Ellen Brooks, a re­tired district at­tor­ney over­see­ing the state in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The plea agree­ment spec­i­fied that Mr. Bent­ley must sur­ren­der cam­paign funds to­tal­ing nearly $37,000 within a week and per­form 100 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice as a physi­cian. The der­ma­tol­o­gist also can­not seek pub­lic of­fice again.

Mr. Bent­ley’s suc­ces­sor is Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, who be­came Alabama’s sec­ond female gov­er­nor. The first was Lurleen Wal­lace, wife of seg­re­ga­tion­ist and four-term Gov. Ge­orge C. Wal­lace. She ran as a sur­ro­gate for her still-pow­er­ful hus­band in 1966 when he couldn’t seek re-elec­tion be­cause of term lim­its. She won, but died in of­fice in 1968.

“The Ivey ad­min­is­tra­tion will be open. It will be trans­par­ent. And it will be hon­est,” Ms. Ivey said.


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