MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Friday he was happy with his decision to resign and that it relieved him and the state after the drumbeat of a yearlong scandal focused on his relationship with a former aide.
“I really do feel like a heavy load has been lifted,” Bentley said with a smile as he moved his stuff out of the governor’s mansion.
The doctor and former Baptist deacon found himself in the center of a sex scandal after recordings surfaced last year of him making suggestive remarks to the aide before his divorce. The cloud around him continued to swirl after lawmakers opened impeachment hearings to determine whether he coerced staff to help hide the relationship.
He said he came to the conclusion that resigning Monday would be the best thing for the state and his staff.
“Honestly, I just felt like that the state needed, and the people, just needed to be relieved. You know what, I’m the leader and I had to make that decision,” he said. “I came here because I love the people of Alabama and I’m leaving because I still love the people of Alabama. ... It was not going to let up. I want things to be calmer.”
Bentley made a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to misdemeanor campaign finance violations to end the threat of a criminal investigation. The Alabama Ethics Commission last week ruled that Bentley might have broken state ethics and campaign laws. The findings set off a rapid series of events, culminating toward his possible impeachment.
Bentley, speaking briefly to The Associated Press and the Montgomery Advertiser at the governor’s mansion, declined to say if he thought had been treated fairly or unfairly.
Bentley, a dermatologist, said he plans to teach and return to practicing medicine, focusing on rural areas where there is a shortage of specialists.
The ex-governor described his final meeting with staff, where he announced his decision to step down.
“I told them, ‘We’ll cry in here in the meeting, but when we get out there, we are going to hold our heads high,” he said.