Bentley’s problems escalate

Published 1:15 am Saturday, April 8, 2017

Legislature asks high court to lift TRO, let impeachment begin

Impeachment hearings against Gov. Robert Bentley that were expected to begin Monday may be postponed after Montgomery County Circuit Judge Greg Griffin granted the governor’s request Friday for a temporary restraining order.

But Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee which is handling the Articles of Impeachment against Bentley, said late Friday that he has kept the Judiciary Committee’s meetings on the House calendar and is in hopes the Alabama Supreme Court will clear the way for the proceedings to go on as scheduled.

“We have filed a notice of appeal seeking expedited action from the Alabama Supreme Court to overturn this order,” Jones said. “The Judiciary Committee will still meet Monday morning at 10 a.m. to address procedural issues and to fully inform the committee of the actions that took place (Friday).”

Even if the committee cannot proceed as previously planned, Friday’s actions should give them plenty to discuss.

Ethics Commission executive director Tom Albritton is an Andalusia native.

The story began unfolding on Wednesday, when the Alabama Ethics Commission met behind closed doors for nine hours before recommending that the governor be prosecuted for four separate ethics violations, including using his office for personal gain, and violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act.


Bentley asks forgiveness, won’t resign

In his first public response to the recommendations, and in a seeming effort to convince the Judiciary Committee to stop the release of long-awaited report of its impeachment investigation, Bentley held an 8:30 a.m. press conference Friday in which he asked for Alabama’s forgiveness.

“Once again, let me say to the people of the state how sorry I am,” Bentley said. “There’s no doubt I have let you down. All I ask you continue to pray for me, and I will continue to pray for you.”

The governor said he had no intention of resigning, but would continue to do the work “God has called me to do.”

Both the Ethics Committee’s work and the impeachment followed allegations last year that Bentley had had an inappropriate relationship with an advisor, and used state resources to pursue it. Both Bentley and the advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, have denied they had a physical relationship, despite the release last year of a recorded phone conversation Bentley had with Mason in which he described how he liked to fondle her. The governor’s wife recorded the conversation before the Bentleys’ divorce.



Even as the governor was apologizing to the state, his attorneys were seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the impeachment proceedings, claiming Bentley had been denied due process.

Attorneys for the legislature contend that judicial rules do not apply to the legislative impeachment process.

It took all day and three Montgomery County circuit judges to get a ruling in the TRO request. The first judge recused himself; the second, a Bentley appointee, held a hearing, heard the evidence, and later recused himself; then Griffin, also a Bentley appointee, also heard evidence and granted a five week reprieve, 25 days longer than the 10 days the attorneys requested.



But Griffin’s order did not stop the release of 130-page investigation report, which was provided to Judiciary Committee members Friday for the impeachment process.

The report details governor’s attempt, using members of his security staff, to get control of the recording his wife made. It also documents threats Bentley made to Mrs. Bentley’s former chief of staff, Heather Hannah. Hannah told investigators that both her vehicle and her home were vandalized after she cooperated with Ethics Commission investigators.

She also told investigators that Bentley threatened her twice. On one of those occasions, he told her to “watch herself,” that she “did not know what she was getting into.” He also told her that because he was the governor, people “bow to his throne.”



The report includes background information provided by another Andalusian, former Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, who served as Bentley’s chief of staff for a period of time.

“Multiple witnesses reported that the growth in intimacy of the Bentley-Mason relationship coincided with her increasing influence upon, and at times control over, Governor Bentley’s decision-making,” the report states. “Seth Hammett related that this dynamic made his job of managing the office difficult. Although Hammett had implemented changes to tighten the chain of command, he complained that Mason’s individual access to Gov. Bentley frequently upended his efforts to impose discipline on the office’s operations. Hammett stated that Gov. Bentley tended to make decisions in the morning, and those decisions often changed overnight from where the discussion had ended the previous day. The only person in the administration with regular access to Governor Bentley after hours was Mason.”



The report includes multiple exhibits, including screen shots of text message conversations between Mason and Bentley, many of which allude to a physical relationship.

According to the report, Bentley, Mason, and her husband, Jon Mason, also a member of the governor’s administration, did not cooperate with the investigation.

A pdf of the report is available here. The report and the exhibits can be viewed online at