By Scott Buttram
TRUSSVILLE –Following Governor Robert Bentley’s admission of “inappropriate comments” on Wednesday and the subsequent release of audio tapes of Bentley describing physical illicit behavior later in the day. two local legislators are asking the governor to step down.
“I don’t see how the governor can be the strong and effective leader our state needs at this time,” state representative Danny Garrett said. “I would urge him to step aside and allow the state to move forward.”
State senator Shay Shelnutt also urged the Bentley to step down, asking that the governor put the state first.
“It breaks my heart that we find ourselves in this situation, but I’m firmly convicted on where I stand.” Shelnutt said. “I’m calling on Gov. Bentley to resign immediately. I believe his credibility and ability to work legislature has been jeopardized beyond repair and will continue to erode as facts and perception of the facts continue to emerge from his indiscretion with Mrs. Mason. I would ask that he put the citizens of Alabama and the state he loves first and resign immediately.”
Shelnutt said that Republicans often talk about holding state employees, teachers and elected officials accountable for their actions and he thinks Bentley, as the leader of the state, should be the example by walking the walk.
“I ask my fellow legislators to join this call for the governor’s resignation in order that we may move past this distraction and do the job we were elected to do by the citizens of Alabama,” Shelnutt said.
The Bentley saga began when his wife, Diane Bentley, filed for divorce after 50 years of matrimony, citing an an “irretrievable breakdown” of their marriage. Rumors of the governor’s involvement in an affair with a staffer, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, swirled and then seemed to die down. The couple settled on divorce terms and ended to marriage without public fanfare in late 2015.
But on Tuesday the Birmingham News reported that a fired state employee, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier, had confirmed Bentley’s alleged affair.
Wednesday, the story shifted gears and hit the fast lane with a series of press conferences and media stories that propelled Alabama’s governor into the national spotlight.
First, Collier called a press conference in which he repeated the claims he had made to the Birmingham News and layered more into the story with names and dates of events. According to Collier, Mason wielded extraordinary power in her role as an adviser to Bentley.
Collier alleged the existence of audio tapes provided by Bentley’s family and also said the governor had closed investigations that were underway after Collier’s dismissal.
Bentley followed with a press conference of his own in which he admitted inappropriate comments to Mason, but denied a sexual relationship.
Within hours, the media had posted the audio tapes online in which the governor can be heard describing a physical, sexual relationship.