MONTGOMERY — Attorney General Steven Marshall announced Wednesday that he is recusing himself from the "current investigative matter relating to Gov. Robert Bentley," acknowledging that there is indeed an investigation of the governor.
In a press release Wednesday, Marshall announced that he was appointing supernumerary district attorney Ellen Brooks to conduct the investigation.
"I believe this course of action fulfills my commitment to the people that this matter be handled thoroughly and fairly," he is quoted as saying in the release.
Bentley has been at the center of a storm of controversy since last spring, when the former head of the state law enforcement agency accused the governor of having an affair with a married aide, Rebekah Mason.
Mason and Bentley have both denied a "physical affair," but the accusation brought new attention to allegations that Mason was paid improperly while working in the governor's office. Once a state employee, Mason later was paid by campaign funds and by a nonprofit — one that doesn't reveal its donors — while working in the governor's office.
An impeachment investigation into Bentley began last spring, but was halted after then-Attorney General Luther Strange announced he was conducting a parallel investigation. Strange later said he'd never indicated the governor himself was the subject of the criminal investigation.
Bentley's appointment of Strange to a vacant U.S. Senate seat last week raised howls of protest from impeachment advocates, who called for the impeachment process to be restarted.
Bentley appointed Marshall to replace Strange as attorney general on Friday.
Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said Wednesday that he expects the impeachment process to restart in time to complete an impeachment probe by the end of the Legislative session, which will likely be in mid to late May. Jones, who chairs the Judiciary Committee which is overseeing that probe, said he's waiting for the AG's office to give permission to restart the probe.
"We're going to finish this process, but I'm not willing to jeopardize an investigation," he said.
In an email to The Star, one of Bentley’s lawyers said it would be “inappropriate” to comment given the ongoing investigation.
“The governor plans to cooperate fully in the attorney general’s investigation,” attorney Bill Athanas wrote.