Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, seen signing a state of emergency decree on Tuesday ahead of severe weather, may have violated ethics and campaign finance laws, the Alabama Ethics Commission ruled on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Gov. Robert Bentley
April 6 (UPI) -- The Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause to believe that Gov. Robert Bentley violated ethics and campaign finance laws, such as using public resources for personal interests.
Bentley possibly broke laws related to the Alabama Ethics Act and the Fair Campaign Practices Act, the AEC said.
"We have referred those matters to the Montgomery County District Attorney for further consideration and possible prosecution," the AEC said in a statement. "Intentional violations of the Alabama Ethics act and the Fair Campaign Practices Act are Class B felonies. The range of punishment for a Class B felony is a prison sentence of between 2 and 20 years per violation, and a fine of up to $20,000 per violation."
The AEC held four separate votes to determine Bentley may have violated one count of the ethics law and three counts of the campaign finance law.
The AEC said Bentley violated state ethics law by using public resources, such as personnel, equipment and time under his control, for personal interest. The AEC also said Bentley improperly received a campaign contribution and improperly made a loan outside of a 120-day window allowed by law and that he used campaign funds to pay for legal feels, which are linked to an alleged affair he was having with former political adviser Rebekah Mason.
Bentley has denied wrongdoing. William Athanas, Bentley's attorney, said the AEC found probable cause, not a conviction. He said he disagreed with the AEC, the Al.com reported.
"We're obviously disappointed," Athanas said. "We appreciate the time and effort that the commission spent on this. We disagree strongly with the result. But it's important to keep in mind that this is simply a finding of probable cause, not a finding of a violation.