After more than a year of controversy surrounding an alleged affair with a former staffer, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley resigned his office on Monday evening.
Bentley’s announcement came just hours after he was booked by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office on two misdemeanor charges related to campaign finance violations, brokered as part of a plea deal allowing Bentley to avoid felony charges and jail time.
Under the terms of that plea deal, Bentley agreed to plead guilty to charges of converting campaign contributions for personal gain and failing to report campaign contributions. He’ll serve to 12 months of unsupervised probation, repay $8,912 in misused campaign funds, and complete 100 hours of community service. Bentley will also surrender the remaining $36,000 in his campaign account, forfeit his state retirement benefits, and agree not to run for public office again.
Bentley’s alleged affair with former aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason ended the governor’s fifty-year marriage and sparked a lengthy investigation into Bentley’s possible misuses of state resources and campaign finance violations. On Friday, the State House released a damning 3,000-page report ahead of pending impeachment proceedings. Earlier in the week, the House Ethics Committee found probable cause that Bentley had violated ethics and finance laws.
“The time has come for me to look at new ways to serve the great people of our state,” Bentley said at a press conference following his resignation. “I have decided it is time for me to step down as Alabama’s governor.”
“I’ve not always made the right choices, I’ve not always said the right things,” Bentley said. “There have been times that I have let you and our people down, and I’m sorry for that.”
Bentley had repeatedly vowed to continue in office in recent weeks and months. However, calls for his resignation mounted over the weekend, with leaders in the State House, State Senate, and the Republican Party of Alabama all calling for Bentley to step down.
“Thank you, and goodbye, and I love this state,” said Bentley as he finished his remarks.
Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, 72, has taken office as Alabama’s 54th governor and the second female governor in the state’s history. Under Alabama’s constitution, Ivey became governor as soon as Bentley’s resignation was received, but was formally sworn in at 6:00 p.m. Monday at the state capitol.
In remarks following her swearing-in, Ivey pledged to restore Alabama’s image.
“The Ivey administration will be open. It will be transparent. And it will be honest,” Ivey said.
Bentley becomes the fourth governor in Alabama history to resign the office and is the third of the last six Alabama governors to have gotten into trouble with the law. Gov. Guy Hunt was convicted of misusing state resources in 1993 and forced to resign, and Gov. Don Siegelman was convicted of bribery in 2006, three years after leaving office.
State leaders welcomed the news of Bentley’s resignation.
“We’re a little less corrupt than we were a day ago,” said Rep. Ed Henry, the Republican state legislator who filed impeachment charges against Bentley last year.