MONTGOMERY, Ala. (CN) – Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley resigned from office Monday, the same day impeachment hearings started in the Alabama State House over claims he misused state resources to hide an affair with a top aide.
Despite insisting he did nothing illegal and he would not resign, Bentley, a Republican, could not recover from a wild week that included a report from the Alabama Ethics Commission finding probable cause he had violated state and ethics finance laws through the alleged affair with former political advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
The scandal that has engulfed the governor for nearly a year became an insurmountable crisis for Bentley after legislators moved to open impeachment hearings against him on Monday.
Bentley had received a temporary reprieve on Friday, when a Montgomery County, Alabama judge temporarily blocked the proceedings. But the Alabama Supreme Court issued an emergency ruling on Saturday that cleared the way for the impeachment hearing to begin Monday.
The sex-tinged scandal gathered force over the past few days and legislators turned up the pressure by opening impeachment hearings Monday. Bentley had steadfastly refused to resign, even though it appeared he had practically no support in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
There have been reports that Bentley’s lawyers spent the weekend trying to hammer out a deal with prosecutors, but Bentley was booked and fingerprinted Monday afternoon at the Montgomery County Jail after he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors involving campaign violations. Each count carries a $300 bond.
After being booked, Bentley went before a judge in Montgomery County, where he was formally charged with the two misdemeanors – failure to file campaign reports and converting campaign funds illegally for personal use. Bentley told the judge he was guilty.
Bentley has to pay $2,000 in fines and court costs and he must reimburse more than $8,000 that was used illegally. Bentley was sentenced to 30 days in jail for each count, to run concurrently, but the sentence was suspended by the judge.
In a press conference confirming his resignation, Bentley said, “I can no longer allow my family, my dear friends, my dedicated staff and cabinet to be subjected to the consequences that my past actions have brought upon them. I have spent the last year in deep and earnest prayer for our state and our people. I pray every morning for wisdom and guidance and forgiveness for the sins that I committed. This Easter week, I am even more grateful for a loving and merciful Savior who will always love me and you unconditionally.”
He continued, “The governor is the face of the state in Alabama in virtually all areas even on a national stage and I want you to know that I love our people with all of my heart and I want nothing more than to serve them. The time has come for me to look at new ways to serve the good people of our great state. I have decided that it is time for me to step down as Alabama’s Governor. I’m leaving this office that I have held, that I have respected, that I have loved for seven years to focus on other and possible more affected areas of service. I love our people in this state. I love this office. However, I realize there are things more important than this office.”
An emotional Bentley concluded by saying, “Thank you and goodbye and I love this state from the bottom of my heart and the people who live here. God bless you.”
Bentley earlier sent an official resignation letter to Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, who will be sworn in as governor Monday night.