- Associated Press - Friday, April 22, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Friday that he would not respond to the state auditor’s order to testify before him about his relationship with a former staffer and whether state funds were used to facilitate it.

Bentley issued the brief statement the day after State Auditor Jim Zeigler said he was ordering Bentley to appear before him to answer questions. The governor said he is cooperating fully with the Alabama Ethics Commission but indicated he would not be appearing before Zeigler.

“The appropriate legal process is through the Alabama Ethics Commission where the auditor has already filed a complaint, and we are fully cooperating in every way,” the governor said. “I do not intend to respond further to Mr. Zeigler.”

Bentley has struggled to shake off a scandal after admitting making inappropriate remarks to former staffer Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who has since resigned. Bentley insisted he did not have a “physical affair” despite telephone recordings in which the governor makes sexually charged remarks to someone with the same first name as Mason before his divorce last year.

Zeigler had ordered Bentley to appear before him May 2 to answer questions in 11 areas, including the use of state planes, travel records, cellphones and “all efforts by your office or anyone acting in concert with your office to suppress evidence of or cover up misuse of state funds.”

The state auditor cited a section of state code that he said allows him to compel testimony, but it was unclear what, if any, enforcement options he has.

Zeigler has had a series of clashes with the governor. Last year he accused Bentley, who had recently taken down Confederate flags from Capitol grounds, of removing Confederate-themed toys from the Capitol gift shop.

Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis, at the start of this year’s legislative session, tweeted pictures of Zeigler at Bentley’s State of the State address after she said Ziegler told some reporters he had been forced to sit in the balcony. The pictures included an arrow pointing to Zeigler showing him in the seating area with other elected officials.

In addition to the ethics complaint, the House of Representatives could vote Tuesday on a resolution that would create an investigatory committee anytime 10 or more lawmakers file articles of impeachment. Eleven members of the House signed articles of impeachment against Bentley shortly after the scandal broke.

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