Alabama governor faces start of impeachment proceedings

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 10, 2017 9:00 AM

(Reuters) - Impeachment proceedings against Alabama Governor Robert Bentley over a relationship with a former aide were scheduled to begin on Monday, one day after leaders of the Alabama Republican Party called for his resignation.

The Judiciary Committee of the Alabama House of Representatives was set to begin the impeachment process on Monday. The committee will eventually make a recommendation to the full House on whether to impeach Bentley, a Republican.

The two-term governor has vowed not to resign and has said he did nothing illegal.

Bentley is accused of inappropriate use of state resources. His troubles began last year when recordings surfaced of him making suggestive remarks to a former adviser, Rebekah Mason, before his wife of 50 years filed for divorce in August 2015.

Bentley has denied having a physical affair with Mason, who

is married.

The steering committee of the Alabama Republican Party on Sunday released a statement saying Bentley should step down.

"The overwhelming majority of elected officials are good, hard working people who love their communities, state and nation," the Alabama GOP steering committee said in a statement.

"However, when situations arise that are in direct conflict with the betterment of our people, we will speak up regardless of political party," it added.

The governor did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the GOP statement.

Bentley, 74, has battled impeachment efforts over the last year.

"I have done nothing illegal," he said at a news conference on Friday. "If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no, I have not."

An Alabama circuit court judge on Friday ordered a temporary halt to the impeachment process until hearings could be held on Bentley's claim that lawmakers did not give enough time to present an adequate defense.

But the Alabama Supreme Court on Saturday overturned the lower-court's order, allowing impeachment proceedings to begin in the legislature even as justices consider new filings in the case.

The House Judiciary Committee in a report has accused Bentley of ordering state law enforcement officers to track down copies of an embarrassing recording that suggested an affair with Mason, who has resigned. It also accused him of retaliating against an official who discovered the relationship.

On Wednesday, the Alabama Ethics Commission found Bentley probably violated ethics and campaign finance laws.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)