Alabama Attorney General Steven T. Marshall has recused himself from an ongoing investigation into the office of Gov. Robert Bentley, who appointed Marshall to his new position only five days ago to fill a vacancy left by the appointment of Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate.
A news release from Marshall’s office on Wednesday offered the first official confirmation that an investigation of Bentley’s office has been occurring within the AG’s office — one that’s been suspected since allegations the governor used state funds to facilitate an affair with former staff member Rebekah Mason were first made public in March 2016.
While Bentley has admitted to having “inappropriate conversations” with Mason in a series of now-notorious recordings captured by his ex-wife Dianne, he has repeatedly denied having a “physical affair” or misusing public funds.However, Strange’s appointment to the Senate seat vacated by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions still brought up questions of a potential conflict of interest because of Strange’s role in sidelining impeachment proceedings conducted against Bentley last year.
On Nov. 3, 2016, Strange sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee asking them to “cease active interviews and investigation” until his office could complete “necessary related work.” He then went on to tell reporters who asked about a possible conflict of interest with his Senate appointment that, “we’ve never said that we’re investigating the governor.”
Despite that, Strange’s replacement seems to have confirmed one this afternoon.“After meeting with the staff of the Special Prosecutions Division of the Attorney General’s Office concerning the status of a possible investigation of Gov. Bentley, I have determined to recuse myself from the aforementioned ‘related work.’” Marshall wrote. “[I] have appointed former Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks to serve as supernumerary district attorney leading the investigation.”
Marshall said Brooks worked in the Montgomery County District Attorneys office for 35 years including serving as the district attorney from 1993 until her retirement in 2014. According to Marshall, Brooks is an “experienced prosecutor handling a variety of matters” that he believes can “ensure that all the facts are pursued in [the] investigation” of Bentley’s office.
When Marshall was appointed Feb.10, he claimed his first priority would be determining if there was an ongoing investigation into Bentley’s office, pledging to recuse himself if there was. On Wednesday, Marshall said he began looking into that in the first 48 hours after his appointment, adding that his decision “fulfilled [his] commitment to the people of Alabama.”