AL Ethics Commission finds probable cause governor broke law

AL Ethics Commission finds probable cause governor broke law

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Following more than nine hours behind closed doors in an executive session, members of the Alabama Ethics Commission emerged from their hearing Wednesday evening and voted to refer Gov. Robert Bentley's case to the Montgomery County district attorney's office for consideration and possible prosecution.

"I have not received their report or findings," DA Daryl Bailey said. "Once received, I will review and make a decision on how to proceed."

The commission voted, saying it found probable cause to believe the governor violated both the state's ethics laws and the Fair Campaign Practices Act, both Class B felonies. They contend Bentley misused state resources and improperly accepted a campaign contribution and loan outside allowed fundraising windows.

Punishment for such violations can range from a prison term of up to 20 years and fines up to $20,000 on each count.

Former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier and Auditor Jim Ziegler testified as witnesses. Collier had accused Bentley of misusing state funds in an alleged affair for former aide Rebekah Mason.

At least two other states ethics officials were in attendance, including the ethics commission director and the general counsel attorney for ethics.

To be clear, Bentley has not been impeached. He retains the full power of his office, though an impeachment probe against him is ongoing by the Alabama House Judiciary Committee. Their report is expected to be released Friday.

Bentley, 74, has long maintained he's done nothing illegal despite admitting he had an inappropriate relationship with Mason, who is married to a member of his cabinet.

The commission stated that the investigation into Bentley has been ongoing for a year, and said it issued more subpoenas in this case than it has in total since it was granted subpoena power. More than 45 witnesses have been interviewed and some 33,000 documents have been analyzed for the investigation.

The commission said it's prohibited by law from any further comment on the case since it is an ongoing matter.

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