Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley impeachment proceedings under way

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., April 10 (Reuters) - Talks that could lead to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's resignation were under way on Monday, as a legislative panel began impeachment proceedings on accusations stemming from his relationship with a former adviser, a state lawmaker and a local news website said.

Bentley's lawyers have been involved in negotiations for the governor to step down, likely by Wednesday, reported AL.com, citing unnamed sources in Montgomery, the state capital.

State Representative Jack Williams said in a telephone interview that the second-term Republican governor could step down as early as Monday, but that the discussions could also break down without an agreement.

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US President-elect Donald Trump (C) talks with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (2nd L) and US Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions (L) as he arrives in Mobile, Alabama, for a 'Thank You Tour 2016' rally on December 17, 2016. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks during a news conference in Mobile, Alabama July 2, 2012. European planemaker Airbus held a news conference to announce that they will construct an assembly plant for their A320 in Mobile. The plant will give Airbus it's first assembly site in the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS)
US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (L) upon arrival on Air Force One at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama, March 26, 2015. Obama is traveling to speak about the economy. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Fabrice Bregier, Airbus President and CEO and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), pose for a photo at a ground breaking ceremony for its first U.S. assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama April 8, 2013. Airbus broke ground on a plane assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama, on Monday, a big step toward making its first U.S. plant a reality in a bid to win market share from Boeing Co. REUTERS/Lyle Ratliff (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS INDUSTRIAL CONSTRUCTION)
L-R: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, Alabama Congressman Joe Bonner (R-AL), EADS President and CEO Tom Enders, Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Bregier, and Mobile Mayor Sam Jones talk after Europe's Airbus broke ground on its first U.S. assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama April 8, 2013. Airbus broke ground on a plane assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama, on Monday, a big step toward making its first U.S. plant a reality in a bid to win market share from Boeing Co. REUTERS/Lyle Ratliff (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS INDUSTRIAL CONSTRUCTION)
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks during a news conference at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile, Alabama February 24, 2011. Boeing Co has won a contract worth over $30 billion to build new refueling planes for the U.S. Air Force, beating out Europe's EADS, the Pentagon said on Thursday. REUTERS/ Lyle W. Ratliff (UNITED STATES - Tags: MILITARY BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)
Fabrice Bregier, Airbus President and CEO shakes hands with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), after breaking ground on its first U.S. assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama April 8, 2013. Airbus broke ground on a plane assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama, on Monday, a big step toward making its first U.S. plant a reality in a bid to win market share from Boeing Co. REUTERS/Lyle Ratliff (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS INDUSTRIAL CONSTRUCTION)
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (L), Jet Blue CEO David Barger (C) and Barry Eccleston, president and CEO of Airbus Americas pose for a photo in front of a Jet Blue A320 at Brookley Airport in Mobile, Alabama July 2, 2012. European planemaker Airbus announced today that they will construct an assembly plant for their A320 in Mobile. The plant will give Airbus its first assembly site in the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS POLITICS)
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"Honestly, I think it could happen today or it could not happen at all," Williams said, who was not involved in the talks.

The governor's office said Bentley, 74, was not directly involved in the talks, according to AL.com. The governor did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the negotiations.

The state House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee on Monday morning opened hearings on whether to recommend Bentley's impeachment, which could lead to his removal from office.

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A report released by the panel accused Bentley of ordering state law enforcement officers to track down copies of an embarrassing recording that suggested he had had an affair with the former senior adviser, Rebekah 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 has repeatedly vowed not to resign, saying he had done nothing illegal.

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"If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no, I have not," Bentley said at a news conference on Friday.

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 on Sunday released a statement saying the governor should step down.

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

Bentley's troubles began last year when recordings surfaced of him making suggestive remarks to Mason, before his wife of 50 years filed for divorce in August 2015.

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