Time for honesty, transparency in the capital

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Transparency and honesty.

That’s what Gov. Kay Ivey promised on Monday as she was sworn into the office vacated by Robert Bentley.

Bentley’s disgraceful exit from office follows allegations of an illicit affair with a staffer; misuse of state funds and influence to hide the affair; and misappropriation of campaign resources, again to facilitate then cover-up the longtime affair. The saga has dragged on for nearly three years, a scandal of epic proportions in a state fraught with leadership challenges in recent years.

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It culminated in the public release on Friday of more than 3,000 pages of investigative documents: copies of dispositions and interviews, screen shots of salacious text messages that read like teenage angst, details of abuses of power and intimidation, repeated examples of significant lapse in judgment and integrity by our state’s highest elected official. And, in the midst of all those pages, allegations of criminal activity, echoed by an ethics commission review panel.

Only when all this was made public, transparent for the masses to see, did Bentley finally agree as part of a plea deal to resign from office, forfeiting his state retirement and security detail in exchange for a plea deal that left him with little more than a slap on the wrist for his apparent criminal wrongdoing.

And now we watch and wait as the dominoes begin to fall.

Bentley’s resignation was simply the first step: wrongful termination suits already have been filed; his consort Rebekah Mason and her husband could face criminal charges as well; and state employees who were wrongfully badgers or belittled in an attempt to hide the affair are finally stepping into the light, telling their story and, likely, demanding justice moving forward.

Politics is a heady proposition, filled with the allure of power and influence – and a field that tends to feed on the character flaws of men and women alike.

We’ve seen the worst of what can happen here in Alabama, thanks to our governor and his mistress, and it’s an ugly, sordid mess that makes our state the butt of national jokes and leaves us saddened for the innocent family members who have be-come collateral damage.

And we yearn for true transparency and honesty; for state leaders who act with integrity and humility, in the best interest of the state; for a Legislature that can move past the “what do we do about our governor?” debate to addressing the fiscal and infrastructure issues our state faces; for something resembling respect in our statehouse.

It’s long overdue.