Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks during Alabama Community College Day on the Alabama Capitol lawn on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Montgomery, Ala. Bentley vowed to defend himself in wake of filing of articles of impeachment against him.
An Alabama lawmaker Tuesdayfiled articles of impeachment against the state's governor over what he called "incompetency" and an inability to lead after questions about his relationship with a former staffer.
"We’ve never done this before," said Rep. Ed Henry, a Republican from Hartselle, Ala. "We’ve never tried to impeach a governor." But he added the "process begins today."
Gov. Robert Bentley, also a Republican, in a statement called the move "political grandstanding" meant to distract the state from pressing issues.
"There are no grounds for impeachment, and I will vigorously defend myself and my administration from this political attack," according to Bentley's statement.
On March 23, former Secretary Spencer Collier of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency accused Bentley of having an affair with his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Collier said he discovered the affair in 2014 when Bentley was married to his wife, Dianne.
The Bentleys divorced in the fall, ending their 50-year marriage. Audio of Bentley making suggestive comments in a phone conversation since has surfaced.
Alabama's Constitution allows for impeachment of constitutional officers for a broad range of actions, not all of them illegal. The state's governing document allows for the removal of officers for "willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or intemperance in the use of intoxicating liquors or narcotics ... as unfits the officer for the discharge of such duties, or for any offense involving moral turpitude."
The state Constitution is less specific about the process of impeachment. Unlike theU.S. Constitution, the state constitution does not provide a margin for conviction of an impeached constitutional officer in the Senate. Rep. Mac McCutcheon, a Republican from Huntsville, Ala., said Tuesday the House would set up an investigatory committee to determine if any grounds for impeachment were apparent.
Alabama governor faces impeachment for sex scandal