By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
In late March of last year, recordings surfaced of Governor Robert Bentley talking in a sexual manner to his top political advisor Rebekah Mason on the telephone. Soon after, allegations surfaced of Bentley illegally using campaign funds and his office to cover up an affair, though Bentley repeatedly denied having a sexual relationship with Mason.
On April 10, Bentley agreed to a plea deal that involved resigning from office, pleading guilty to two campaign violations, serve one year of probation, do 100 hours of community service, repay the nearly $9,000 his campaign spent on Mason’s legal fees and forfeit over $36,000 from campaign account to the state’s coffers.
Although it is possible Bentley could serve time for the misdemeaners, it is unlikely he will.
“It is a sad state of affairs that the leadership of all three branches of our state government has – in only one year’s time – either been removed from office, or resigned because they were going to be removed from office for corruption,” said State Representative Craig Ford. “I believe Gov. Bentley’s resignation was in the best interests of the state.
The report that led to Bentley’s resignation has also raised questions about further corruption among state officials, including former Attorney General Luther Strange’s appointment to the U.S. Senate.Before his appointment, Strange asked the House Judiciary Committee to hold off on impeachment while his office investigated.
Following the resignation, Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey was sworn into office as the new governor.She is the first female Republican to hold the office.
Ivey, who grew up on a family farm in Camden, has worked as a bank officer and high school teacher. Politically she has worked as the Alabama Development Office assistant director, served two terms as state treasurer and this was her second term as lieutenant governor.
“Today is a dark day in Alabama, but also it’s one of opportunity,” Ivey said when she was sworn in on April 11. “I ask for your help, and your patience as together we steady the ship and improve Alabama’s image.”
“I look forward to working with Gov. Ivey as we try to move the state forward,” said Ford. “Now more than ever we need a strong, two-party system so we can break this chain of absolute power becoming absolute corruption. I hope the people of Alabama will take this to heart and vote for the person rather than voting for the party.”