HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- A year ago today Gov. Robert Bentley resigned from office amid the fallout from an alleged affair with his former top political advisor Rebekah Mason.
Bentley’s resignation capped a 13-month drama that began publicly with former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency chief Spencer Collier alleging the affair.
Bentley had fired Collier, a longtime friend, the day before. Collier and Mason had clashed previously and Collier said he’d warned Bentley not to use state resources to further an affair.
“From August of 2014, until the present, it’s become apparent to me that Rebekah Mason has wielded a level of influence over both the Governor and state government that I have never seen in all my years of public service,” Collier said.
Collier’s discussion of possible misuse of state resources – including law enforcement personnel – to further the alleged affair, spurred talk of impeachment by the Alabama Legislature.
The Alabama House Judiciary Committee ultimately hired a special counsel, Birmingham-attorney Jack Sharman, to investigate Bentley and the related allegations.
Sharman completed the report nearly a year ago and planned to release it publicly on April 7. That morning Bentley stood on the steps of the state capitol and said he wouldn’t resign.
Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, went to see him a short time later, to let Bentley know he’d lost the support of the House and that he should consider resigning.
"I feel like the discussion we had, I may have brought up some things which got him to think about what was ahead and what needed to be done,” McCutcheon said.
Sharman released the report that Friday afternoon, it was full of embarrassing details, including private and intimate texts between Bentley and Mason.
Three days later, Bentley’s office called Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and asked her to come see the governor. Ivey said she met with Bentley and they chatted for a bit.
“And he finally said, ‘You know, and I think I’m going to resign’” Ivey recalled in an interview with WHNT News 19.
The governor then talked about his staff, the fine job they’d done.
“Finally, I leaned over and I said, ‘Governor when do you think you’re going to think about resigning? And he said, ‘I plan to resign about 5 o’clock tonight,’” Ivey said.
“So literally, I had about three hours notice before Ellen Brooks from the AG’s office brought over a document that said the Office of the Governor had transferred to the Lt. Governor.”
Ivey said she went home, said a prayer and then returned to the capitol to take the oath of office.
She’s now running for a full term as governor, facing three GOP challengers in the June 5 primary.
Before he resigned Bentley pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor campaign finance violations, including using campaign funds to pay Mason’s attorney.
The grand jury that was established two years ago to investigate Bentley and potentially related offenses ended its work last week, with no additional charges being filed.