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Alabama governor, facing possible impeachment, to resign

FILE PHOTO: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks during a news conference in Mobile, Alabama July 2, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman/File Photo

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has agreed to resign on Monday as a legislative panel suspended a hearing that could have led to his impeachment on accusations stemming from his relationship with a former adviser, a state representative said.

Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey will replace Bentley, 74, Alabama House Representative Ed Henry told reporters. Henry is the vice chairman of the house ethics and campaign finance committee, which issued the report saying the governor probably violated the law.

Bentley's office said the two-term Republican governor would make an announcement at the state capital at 5 p.m. CDT. It did not immediately comment on an agreement to resign.

The Alabama House Judiciary Committee suspended hearings that began on Monday into alleged campaign finance and ethics violations stemming from his relationship with Rebekah Mason, a senior adviser who later resigned.

Bentley was charged with two misdemeanors related to campaign finance violations, Major Jon Briggs of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said.

Bentley was booked into the Montgomery County Jail at 3:43 p.m. CDT and paid a $300 bond on each charge, Briggs said in a telephone interview.

A report released by a state ethics panel accused Bentley of ordering law enforcement officers to track down copies of an embarrassing recording that suggested he had had an affair with Mason. It also accused him of retaliating against an official who discovered the relationship.

Bentley has denied having a physical relationship with Mason, who is married. He had repeatedly vowed not to resign, saying he had done nothing illegal.

During the hearing on Monday, the committee's counsel said that Bentley told several top aides that "what happens in the governor’s office stays in the governor’s office," regarding allegations regarding his relationship with Mason.

The Alabama Ethics Commission last week found Bentley probably violated ethics and campaign finance laws, and said it would refer its findings to prosecutors.

The Alabama Republican Party's steering committee released a statement on Sunday saying the governor should step down.

On Saturday, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned a state judge's order that temporarily halted the impeachment process.