Alabama governor could face charges after ethics panel ruling

© Reuters. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks during a press conference in Mobile, Alabama

By Colleen Jenkins and Letitia Stein

(Reuters) – Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley could face possible criminal charges after the state ethics commission found probable cause that he violated state ethics and campaign finance laws.

The Alabama Ethics Commission’s findings after a closed session Wednesday will be reviewed by a local prosecutor to decide whether further action against the governor is warranted.

Bentley, a two-term Republican governor, faces escalating political fallout for his relationship with a former senior adviser. He has been persecuted for the past year for questions about his potentially inappropriate use of state resources.

A committee of the state House of Representatives has been conducting a separate investigation and is expected to issue a report on Friday, which could start the impeachment process.

Bentley denies any legal wrongdoing. His attorney, Bill Athanas, said the ethics commission’s finding of probable cause was disappointing and promised a vigorous defense.

“We believe there is no basis that the governor violated any laws,” Athanas told reporters Wednesday night. “So the battle continues.”

After allegations of a scandal erupted last year, Bentley apologized for making inappropriate comments to married employee Rebekah Mason, while denying allegations of a physical affair. Mason resigned when questions about the couple’s relationship began to dominate Alabama politics.

Bentley’s wife filed for divorce in August 2015 after 50 years of marriage, citing unspecified issues.

The ethics commission reached its conclusion after a year-long investigation that included the review of 33,000 documents and 45 witness interviews, the panel said in a statement.

If accused of violating Alabama ethics or campaign finance laws, Bentley could face up to 20 years in prison for violation, the commission said.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media wishes to remind you that the data contained on this website is not necessarily accurate or in real time. All CFDs (stocks, indices, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but by market makers, so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, which means that prices are indicative and not appropriate for commercial purposes. Therefore, Fusion Media assumes no responsibility for any business losses you may incur as a result of the use of this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any responsibility for loss or damage as a result of reliance on information, including data, quotes, charts, and buy / sell signals contained on this website. Be fully informed about the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest forms of investment possible.