He may be gone — but he won’t soon be forgotten.
A week after Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley resigned from office in the wake of a yearlong sex scandal, details surrounding his affair with a married political adviser continue to emerge.
Bentley had run two successful gubernatorial campaigns as a Christian conservative and set a high moral tone. But his relationship with Rebekah Mason and charges of violating campaign finance and state ethics laws shattered that image.
In the face of looming impeachment, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and — after announcing his resignation — said he would never seek public office again.
Bentley’s plea deal also stated that he would waive all retirement benefits, perform 100 hours of community service in his capacity as a medical doctor and surrender more than $50,000 in fines, reimbursements and campaign funds.
Bentley refused to publicly admit affair
Ripples from the scandal surrounding the governor’s affair had spread during a turbulent 12 months before Bentley’s decision to walk away. Local media and bloggers had even taken to calling him the “Luv Guv.”
Rumors soon reached the Tuscaloosa church where Bentley and his wife Dianne were members — along with Rebekah Mason and her husband Jon.
During an impeachment investigation by the Alabama House Judiciary Committee, Heather Hannah, the chief of staff of former first lady Dianne Bentley, testified that the affair led to the Bentleys and Masons being asked to leave the First Baptist Tuscaloosa church, according to a report released earlier this month.
In separate testimony to the Alabama Ethics Commission, Hannah said that Dianne confided in the pastor of First Baptist, Gil McKee, who had heard the rumors of an affair between the governor and Mason. McKee, Hannah said, “gave a big sermon, and it was pretty obvious that it was targeted at Rebekah and Jon and Gov. Bentley.”
McKee felt the affair couldn’t go on if his church wanted “to grow and follow the Lord,” Hannah said, and he called a meeting between Bentley, Mason and their spouses. Hannah said Dianne Bentley later told her what happened at the meeting.
McKee asked Bentley and Mason to admit to the ongoing affair. They admitted a relationship, but refused to publicly confess, Hannah said. McKee then removed Bentley from his leadership roles in the church and asked Bentley and Mason to leave First Baptist Tuscaloosa.
Bentley and Mason met in Sunday school
Bentley met Mason and her husband Jon when they attended a Sunday School class the then-dermatologist was teaching at the church. Bentley was in the midst of his first campaign for the governor’s office.
According to the report by special counsel Jack Sharman, “Dr. Bentley believed he needed to develop a more sophisticated operation and to add someone to his campaign with experience dealing with the news media.” Mason, a former news reporter, was hired as press secretary shortly after.
Bentley reportedly held several leadership positions in the church, serving as a deacon in addition to his role as a Sunday school teacher.