Alabama governor quits over affair with senior aide

Governor Robert Bentley, 74, tried to hide his affair with his 45-year-old aide.
Governor Robert Bentley, 74, tried to hide his affair with his 45-year-old aide.

WASHINGTON • The governor of the conservative southern US state of Alabama has resigned, shortly after lawmakers began impeachment proceedings linked to his affair with a senior aide that was made public in humiliating detail.

Governor Robert Bentley, 74, pleaded guilty in an agreement with prosecutors on Monday to two misdemeanour campaign violations and is barred from seeking public office again.

"I pray every morning for wisdom and guidance and forgiveness for the sins I have committed," the former dermatologist and church deacon said while announcing his resignation, never directly acknowledging his relationship with 45-year-old adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Their relationship became a topic of speculation in 2015, when his wife of 50 years, Dianne, abruptly filed for divorce.

Then last year, the state's top police officer - fired by Mr Bentley - provided news organisation AL.com with salacious details of the secret romance. The media outlet reported a 2014 phone conversation secretly recorded by Mrs Bentley: "When I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts, and I put my hands (unintelligible) and just pull you real close. I love that too," the governor is heard saying.

Last week, a report for the Alabama House Judiciary Committee said Mr Bentley tried to hide the affair "in a process characterised by increasing obsession and paranoia".

The report said that during a trip to Washington in 2014, Mrs Bentley saw text messages that he was sending to his mistress while at a dinner, including: "I can't take my eyes off you." He also once mistakenly sent his wife a text, accompanied by a red-rose emoji, that said: "I love you Rebekah."

As part of his plea deal, Mr Bentley must surrender US$37,000 (S$52,000) in campaign funds and perform 100 hours of community service.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'Alabama governor quits over affair with senior aide'. Print Edition | Subscribe