Alabama Governor Robert Bentley will face a legislative effort seeking his impeachment, a state lawmaker said on Tuesday, announcing the start of formal proceedings amid escalating political fallout over his relationship with a former advisor.
Bentley, a two-term Republican governor, has apologized for making inappropriate remarks to the married ex-staffer, while denying allegations of a physical affair. Since he acknowledged the accusations two weeks ago, he has been dogged by questions about their relationship and potentially inappropriate use of state resources.
State representative Ed Henry, also a Republican, held a news conference on Tuesday to discuss impeachment proceedings, acknowledging uncertainty about exactly how they would unfold.
"We are looking at this governor that has essentially betrayed the trust of the people of Alabama," he said, calling on Bentley to step down.
"We’ve never done this before. We’ve never tried to impeach a governor," added Henry, who spoke alongside several state representatives who support impeachment.
He drafted articles of impeachment that accuse Bentley of corruption, incompetence, immoral behavior, and neglecting his duties as governor.
In response, Bentley issued a statement calling the effort a distraction from pending issues before the state legislature.
"There are no grounds for impeachment, and I will vigorously defend myself and my administration from this political attack," said Bentley, a medical doctor who easily won re-election to a second term in November 2014.
The senior advisor in question, Rebekah Mason, resigned last week. She said she intended to focus on her husband and children and did not address the alleged affair. Funding for her salary was among the issues questioned in the impeachment documents.
Discussions about their relationship have dominated Alabama politics since March 23 when Bentley was publicly accused of having an affair by Spencer Collier, the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, just after he was fired by the governor.
Audio recordings have emerged that depict Bentley making suggestive comments to Mason, according to state media reports.
Bentley's wife filed for divorce in August 2015 after 50 years of marriage, citing unspecified problems.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla. and Karen Brooks in Fort Worth, Texas; Editing by Andrew Hay)