After months and months of rumor, innuendo and speculation, Gov. Robert Bentley agreed to resign Monday. In his place, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey was sworn in as the state’s 54th governor and just the second female governor in state history.
As part of a plea agreement, Bentley agreed to never again hold public office. He was booked into the Montgomery County Jail on charges of misuse of campaign funds in relation to his ongoing affair with former aide Rebekah Mason.
“I’ve always thought that holding public office was a calling,” he said. “I love our people and I love this state but I have made mistakes…the time has come to look for new ways to serve the great people of our state.
“I’ve made the decision that the time has come for me to step down as governor. I have come to realize that there are things more important than holding office.
“I have spoken with Lt. Gov. (Kay) Ivey and we will work to make this a smooth transition and peaceful transition of power. I am forever grateful to my staff and the sacrifices they have made. I truly believe that great things are ahead for our state.
“Continue to pray for me and I will continue to pray for you.”
As part of the plea agreement, Bentley resigned immediately after pleading guilty to a pair of misdemeanor campaign violations – converting campaign contributions for personal gain and failing to report campaign contributions.
He will serve one year of probation and must perform 100 hours of unpaid community service as a physician. He also must repay the $8,912 that his campaign spent on Mason’s legal fees and forfeit all the money in his campaign account – $36,912 – which will go into the state’s general fund. He also gives up his state retirement as part of the deal.
In return, the state attorney general’s office will not pursue other felony charges against Bentley.
There is a possibility that Bentley could serve prison time – he could be sentenced to as much as a year – but that will be up to the judge who sentences him.
Ivey, a Republican who was elected state treasurer before her election as lieutenant governor, becomes the state’s second female governor – Lurleen Wallace was elected to the state’s highest office in 1966 but died less than halfway into her term. Reaction
State Sen. Shay Shelnutt: “I am saddened by the failure of leadership and character that led to Robert Bentley’s resignation. I pray for him and his family, and I hope they find healing.
“I welcome the able leadership of Gov. Kay Ivey, and I look forward to working with her to advance a conservative agenda that jump-starts economic growth, improves educational opportunities for all of Alabama’s students, and protects individual liberty.”
State Rep. Randall Shedd: “I think we are all sad that actions of former Governor Bentley reached the level of impeachment or resignation. I take no pleasure in the situation, however, I think it is best for our state.
“As I said more than two months ago, I became convinced the Governor leaving office was necessary.
“It is time now for us to move on.
“The message to our citizens and the whole world is corruption will no longer be tolerated in Alabama. Future governors hopefully will not allow a “Governor behind the curtain” whether it be an individual, group or lobbyists. Business and industry considering Alabama can come knowing that Alabama is fair to everyone and Alabama addresses its problems.
“I look forward to working with Gov. Kay Ivey. I think people will be pleased with her steady leadership during this difficult time.
“With Gov. Ivey’s leadership, we can now address the problems of our state including public safety, education, mental health and a host of other issues.
“Most importantly, we can restore the public’s trust.”
State Rep. David Standridge: “This is a sad day for our state, but I am thankful that Robert Bentley has chosen to put the good of this state and of our people ahead of his own desires. I have been saying for over a year that our state needed to move past this controversy and instead focus on doing what is right for our people. Today I am praying for Dr. Bentley, his family, and our entire state. With this decision, our state can now move forward and focus on growing jobs, protecting agricultural opportunities, and ensuring that our education system competes with other states in the region.
“I am also offering my full support for Gov. Ivey. As the chairman of the Rural Caucus, I pledge my prayers, my support, and my commitment to work with our new governor to ensure that the needs of the hardworking families of Alabama are front and center in the minds of our state’s leaders. I also implore all of my colleagues in elected office to recommit themselves to serving with honesty, transparency, and with the highest level of integrity.”