By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) announced that he has asked God for forgiveness, and is asking the people of Alabama to do the same.
Following the controversial firing of Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Director Spencer Collier an audiotape was released exposing an inappropriate, and possibly adulterous, relationship between Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) with his former top political advisor, Mrs. Rebekah Caldwell Mason. This supports Collier’s accusation that Mason and Bentley were involved in an illicit relationship. A relationship they were so desperate to keep hidden that the pair urged Collier to obstruct justice in the Attorney General’s office prosecution of embattled Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn).
When Collier defied Bentley’s orders to refuse to give State prosecutor Matt Hart an affidavit, he was put on leave. Bentley then appointed his former bodyguard, Stan Stabler to act as the acting head of ALEA. Stabler and his team then alleged that Collier and the top officials at ALEA had misappropriated state resources. Rather than refer these allegations to the Attorney General’s office for investigation, Stabler sacked Collier’s team. Collier denounced the purge and exposed Bentley and Mason in a news conference. Bentley then fired Collier.
Gov. Bentley is now facing calls from many legislators to resign or be impeached.
Gov. Bentley has acknowledged that he did wrong and has asked God to forgive him. Bentley told reporters, “I’ve asked God to forgive me because that’s the most important thing. I want back in His fellowship. And so I asked God to forgive me.
Bentley has also asked the people of Alabama to forgive him: “But I asked other people to again forgive me and I’ve already done that and I have truly asked the people of this state – they’re the folks who love me and are the best people in the world – I have asked them to forgive me.”
He acknowledges that he sinned but does not acknowledge illegal activity so he wants to remain as Governor. “And, you know, it’s mine. I own it. I own it. I did it. I point no fingers to anybody else. I make no excuses from that. I own my problem. It’s not your problem. You have other problems. It’s not your problem. It’s my problem and I have to deal with that. And so I have humbly opened myself up to the people of this state and I have asked them to forgive me. And let me continue to do the things they elected me for twice and that’s to try to make their lives better. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Gov. continued, “It is not (affecting my job). This has been addressed a long time ago. It really has. It’s all been clarified, it’s all been addressed. I have put it in the rear-view mirror. Others have not because it’s obviously been brought out now. It’s one of those things that I take full control of. It’s me. I did it. I did it. And that’s why I ask the people of this state to forgive me because they are a forgiving people and they know God’s grace.”
Bentley told The New York Times that he plans on releasing a video statement to the people of Alabama.
State Representative Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) has vowed to draw up articles of impeachment today, if Bentley does not resign.
As House Minority Leader Craig Ford wrote in his column in the Alabama Political Reporter, “The reason Gov. Bentley should resign is because of the people he hurt, the allegations against him, and the crippling affect he is now having on our ability to recruit jobs to Alabama.”
Ford said, “His actions are costing Alabama jobs. There are business owners and leaders of industry who don’t want to sit down with this governor because of the image of corruption that has engulfed the state. We have lost so much opportunity because of this mess. How in the world can we bring anyone else in? What CEO or other corporate group would want to come down here right now? The governor has lost the confidence of the people, the legislature, and those in the business community worldwide!”
Others are urging caution. They argue that the FBI and state investigators will uncover more details about all this: the alleged efforts to obstruct justice; were NCIC databases used for political attacks; the dark money source that was going to Mason through Bentley’s foundation; what was the University of Alabama doing in this; were the lucrative payments to Mrs. Mason from the Bentley campaign appropriate?
They argue that they need more information before impeaching.
State Representative Kerry Rich (R-Albertville) said in a statement, “The Governor has admitted to an inappropriate relationship with an aide. That alone, in my view, does not require his resignation or impeachment. We have ALL sinned and have come short of God’s glory. If he is telling the truth and there is nothing else involved either illegal or unethical and shows proper remorse and demonstrates he can continue, he should be allowed to. There are other allegations and the possibility he is not telling the truth. That we do not know. The Attorney General and the Federal Prosecutor will conduct an investigation to determine the facts.”
Rep. Rich said, “In my view we should let the dust settle and see what the facts are. After we have the facts I will know what position to take and what action is required. We should all ask for guidance from God on what course that should be.”
The Board of the Alabama Federation of College Republicans have issued a statement urging that the Governor be impeached if he won’t resign.
Some question whether Speaker Hubbard will allow an impeachment of Bentley to even get to the floor, given his own impending trial next month on 23 counts of felony ethics violations.
Republican strategist and former Mobile County Commission President Stephen Nodine says that the State cannot afford to wait and let this situation linger.
Nodine said, “I gave a statement last year about the need for the Speaker to step down because the cloud of indictments, now for the sake of the citizens of Alabama it’s time to remove both the Speaker and Gov., not because they are guilty, all deserve their time in front of jury but for the sake of the citizens and party.”
Nodine argued, “The Republican leadership has an obligation as does the party to ask for the resignations of the Gov. and Speaker and must do so today as to not effect further the business of our great State. I once had the honor of recruiting companies such as Airbus, Austal and ThyssenKrupp Steel to this State and the first thing these companies looked for was the continuity of government, we have lost that in Alabama and we must restore that issue today.”
Impeachment could be brought up as early as Tuesday.