Alabama state Rep. Ed Henry said he was “thankful” Gov. Robert Bentley (R) had “reconciled his actions with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and I hope the best for him.”
But Bentley’s confession to Christ is not good enough for the Republican and close to a dozen of his colleagues.
“While we may in a spiritual sense find our forgiveness for our actions, they do have consequences,” Henry said.
Henry filed articles of impeachment against Bentley on April 5. Ten days later, AL.com reported, another Republican, Rep. Matt Fridy (R), moved the process forward by introducing a resolution to set up a committee to study the idea of the first impeachment against an Alabama official in just over 100 years.
If Fridy’s resolution is approved, Rep. Micky Hammon (R), the House majority leader, and Rep. Craig Ford (D), the House minority leader, would select 15 House members for the committee.
At least 10 House members would have to sign an impeachment petition to actually present the case to the committee. Eleven members of the House have already signed on to the impeachment resolution.
The committee would decide if there was enough evidence against Bentley to warrant further action by the full House.
Fridy said he expected a House vote April 26 on the idea of setting up an investigative committee to look into impeaching Bentley.
“This is not about Democrats and Republicans. This is about right and wrong,” said Ford. “The only thing we know for sure today is that nothing the governor has said is true.”
Bentley’s alleged affair with a former aide, Rebekah Mason, is at the center of the articles of impeachment. However, while moral turpitude might seem to speak for itself, Ford said the articles of impeachment should not be seen as an indictment of Bentley’s personal conduct.
Instead, the charges against Bentley are focused on allegations he obstructed justice within the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
Therein lies another legal problem for Bentley.
Spencer Collier, the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency who was fired by Bentley, filed suit April 19 against the governor, Mason, and others in the Bentley inner circle.
Collier has consistently claimed he was fired by Bentley, at Mason’s direction, because he refused to lie to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office about the case being made against Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.
“As a law enforcement officer, I had a duty to uphold the law and to cooperate with law enforcement investigations,” Collier said. “When Governor Bentley asked me to lie to a prosecutor from the Attorney General’s Office, he was asking me to commit a crime, and I refused to comply with that request. That is why Governor Bentley fired me and then participated in a campaign to ruin my name and reputation.”
Only a few hours after Collier filed his lawsuit, Bentley issued a statement in which he promised “an aggressive” defense.
“Mr. Collier was terminated of his duties at ALEA for cause. Once the facts and circumstances become public, I am confident that the justification for terminating him will be shown,” Bentley said.
Still, Gov. Bentley has that legal plate spinning, too.
Meanwhile, Rep. Henry’s five-page impeachment resolution accuses the Alabama governor of willful neglect of duty and corruption in office, along with offenses of moral turpitude.
“We’re looking at this governor who has essentially betrayed the trust of the people of Alabama through actions and lies that have caused us to have some doubt about his leadership,” Henry said.
“And as such, the only course the people of Alabama have to address this issue is through the impeachment process,” he added.
“There is really no basis for it, and they know that,” Bentley said. “Any time you have things going on, you worry about it. But we are just trying to do our job and do the best we can.”
Following that exchange, though, Bentley released a statement leaving no doubt as to his intentions.
Bentley said the press conference at which Henry leveled his accusations was nothing but “political grandstanding.” Bentley said he had no intention of resigning before his term of office is scheduled to end in 2019.
“I have laid out a strategic plan for success, and I will continue to focus my efforts on making Alabama a great state,” Bentley said.
“That is what the people of Alabama overwhelmingly elected and re-elected me to do. I will continue to work hard for them every day.”