Friday, April 22, 2016

"Tuscaloosa Trio," led by former Robert Bentley legal advisor Cooper Shattuck, had every opportunity to respond to questions--but they chose to remain silent

Cooper Shattuck
Cooper Shattuck, former legal advisor to Gov. Robert Bentley and current general counsel at the University of Alabama System, appears to play a major role in the sex scandal that now is bearing down on Tuscaloosa--as we reported yesterday.

Like Bentley, Shattuck portrays himself as a man of God, but he has problems with issues of the flesh--not to mention apparent workplace favoritism. Our post mentions his relationships with Lisa Waldrop, media and communications director at Shelton State Community College, and UA deputy counsel Katie Osburne as examples.

Stories like this tend to generate much harrumphing, and we've seen this before. I broke the story of Bentley's extramarital affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason last August, and in recent weeks, the whole world has learned that our reporting was accurate. I faced defamation lawsuits after reporting on extramarital affairs involving Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke and Attorney General Luther Strange and Jessica Medeiros Garrison--and I even was thrown in jail for five months for daring to report on such topics.

What did the lawsuits prove? Not a thing for the plaintiffs. For me, as a matter of law, they proved that my reporting was not false or defamatory.

Like key figures in the other stories, Shattuck and Co. were given an opportunity to respond to questions, but they chose not to. Here are questions I sent via e-mail to Cooper Shattuck, with copies to Ms. Waldrop and Ms. Osburne:

Mr. Shattuck:

I am a journalist from Birmingham and publisher of the blog Legal Schnauzer, which covers justice issues in Alabama and beyond.

I have reported extensively on the affair between Gov. Bentley and aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason and issues connected to that. In my research, your name has come up frequently. Therefore, I would like to ask that we schedule a time for a telephone interview. If that is not possible, I would like to give you an opportunity to comment on the following topics:

* I understand that you had (or are having) an extramarital affair with Lisa Waldrop, who is assistant director of media and communication at Shelton State. Are extramarital affairs common among current and former members of the Bentley administration? What does that say about the ethical standards of Alabama's governor and his associates?

* I understand that you were associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Tuscaloosa, and Ms. Waldrop was the worship leader, when your affair started. I further understand that both of you have lost your church positions in the wake of revelations about the affair. Has the affair continued, and have you sought work in other churches?

* I understand that you hired Katie Osburne to be your chief deputy at UA. I also understand that there was no official posting for the job, that you created it specifically for Ms. Osburne. I further understand that Ms. Osburne has relatively little legal experience, but you elevated her over more qualified members of the UA staff. Why have you championed Ms. Osburne to such a degree?

* It has been reported that you set up the Alabama Council for Excellent Government (ACEGOV) as a nonprofit while still working for the Bentley administration. Where has money for ACEGOV come from and where has it gone? How much of the money has gone to Rebekah Caldwell Mason? Would you provide copies of documents that show the in-flow and out-flow of funds connected to ACEGOV?

Like most journalists, I work on deadline, so I ask that you respond to this e-mail by 5 p.m. on March 4.


Roger Shuler
(205) 381-5673


Anonymous said...

I think this blog should be renamed "affair schnauzer" as it seems to deal more with reporting on relationships than actual legal matters.

legalschnauzer said...

Maybe you haven't noticed that those "relationships" tend to lead to legal issues. The Bentley/Mason story is a textbook example. If you think this blog is more about relationships than actual legal matters, you obviously haven't it read it very much.

Anonymous said...

Keep hammering. The machine is crumbling.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you need some additional labels for some of the reports you post.

Alabama Hot Mess

Sloppy Seconds

Sloppy Thirds

Three is a Crowd

Bible Banging Bozos and Bible Banging Bimbos

Side Order of Scandal

Get a Hotel Room!

Anonymous said...

Your letter to Mr. Shattuck does not read as much as a request for an interview but as a request to come to an announced ambush. If this is the style of letter you send as a interview request, it is very understandable why they don't respond. The example of your letter to Mr. Shattuck, you don't come across as being an objective journalist who is interested in hearing both sides, rather you come across as having made your mind up and are looking for somebody to confirm your story.

legalschnauzer said...

Not sure I understand your complaint, @9:56. I've made several thousand interview requests during my career, and I know a thing or two about how they work. The potential interviewee mainly wants to know 2-3 things:

* Who are you and what news organization are you with?

* What will be the subject of the interview?

* When and how would you like to conduct the interview?

My e-mail to Mr. Shattuck addressed all of those issues. The second item probably is the most important. The interviewee wants to know what he will be asked about, and it's critical that the journalist tell the truth here.

If the interview is about some touchy subjects that might involve a level of discomfort for the interviewee, it's important to let him know that up front. That's what I did with Mr. Shattuck.

In fact, my approach is the opposite of an "ambush," a term you use. An ambush would involve a journalist telling the subject that it will be a general, light-hearted interview and then arriving with bunch of unpleasant questions. The way I handled it with Mr. Shattuck--and the way I've always handled it--is to be fair, honest, and professional up front. I'm not into "gotcha" journalism.

Your final sentence is simply false. I would not be contacting Mr. Shattuck if I was not interested in hearing both sides. I don't say I've made up my mind about anything. I say I've had a source (or sources) tell me this, and I would like to give you an opportunity to respond.

Mr. Shattuck, in my view, did not respond because he did not want to address the subject matter. I bent over backward to be fair about the nature of the interview and what I wanted to discuss with him.

Anonymous said...

The letter as I read and as I believe most people would read it is confrontational, not conversational. Read your questions. They are offensive in nature and do not offer a chance to make a defense. There is no "was there an affair between you and Mrs. Waldrop?"

I said announced ambush meaning that you were letting him know in advance that this would not be a favorable interview for him. Why would he agree to a no win situation?

If you truely wanted an interview with Mr. Shattuck, the letter would have been conversational in nature.

Have you held off on a story if you what you got from an interview contradicted what information you had previously received?

Robby Scott Hill said...

Have you ever considered that Shattuck, Bentley & even the Riley's are just stooges for the real evil in Alabama? The Russian Jewish Mafia has infiltrated Alabama & the South ever since the end of World War Two. They are the Men Who Killed Kennedy, the men who sold oil valves & the men who built the Dixie Mafia. Men named Somalian & Meisner are the the real bosses & Mogilevich is the boss of bosses. The politicians are just following orders.

legalschnauzer said...

Rob: You know a lot more about that subject than I do. I certainly don't discount it, but having grown up in the Midwest, the notion of any kind of mafia in the South is a new one to me. But I've learned quite a bit from you and others, and I think it's fascinating stuff. Don't some believe there is an Irish mafia, with a strong presence in the South? Is that part of the Dixie Mafia?

Who is the guy in New Orleans that many people believe was tied to the Kennedy assassination--Carlos something. And another guy . . . Louis Roussel. (Not sure on spelling.) I've heard Bill Baxley has ties to one or both of those guys. Not sure if this is true, but I've heard that Baxley's son, Louis Baxley, was named after Louis Roussel.

If the Dixie Mafia is behind all we've seen in Alabama over past 15-20 years, then they truly are an evil bunch. Do you think the Klan fits into this picture somehow? Is Paul Bryant Jr. tied to the Dixie Mafia, you think? His daddy sure was close to Bill Baxley, it seems.

legalschnauzer said...

You are even more off target than you were the first time, @3:14. I say in the second paragraph that I want to give Mr. Shattuck a chance to comment on certain issues. In other words, I'm giving him every opportunity to make a defense. The question you suggest--"Was there an affair between you and Ms. Waldrop"--would have been part of the proposed interview. This is a request for an interview, not an interview itself.

I was letting him know in advance that the material I had from sources was not favorable to him. But if my information was not true, and he could show me the actual facts, then the interview could have been highly favorable to him. It would have been a win-win for him.

I don't know how you define a "conversational" tone, but my tone in an interview request varies according to the type of information involved. If it's likely to be a fairly tough interview, I'm not going to adopt a "conversational" tone that might give the subject the wrong impression. My e-mail makes it clear that I really wanted an interview with Mr. Shattuck--I would not have bothered sending the e-mail otherwise--but I was not going to try to con him into believing this necessarily was going to be pleasant.

Of course, if my sources were wrong and he could show they were wrong, it might have been very pleasant for him. If someone had sent me an interview request like that, and I was not involved in the activities mentioned, I couldn't do the interview fast enough.

Also, my tone probably varies according to the type of person I'm seeking to interview. Lawyers are used to confrontational situations and contentious issues, so I saw no reason to be overly soft with Mr. Shattuck. I don't want to be disrespectful of him, or anyone else, but he's in a field where communications can be sharp, so I figured it was best to take a direct, firm approach.

As for your final question, yes, I have held off on stories when either an interview or an interview request revealed that I was heading in the wrong direction with the information I had. In fact, I've had just such an instance in the last month or so.

Unknown said...

There still are some commentators who continue to try to kill or discredit the messenger. They continue to condone adultery and fornication. The Aristocratic Southern Christian project themselves above the law and do not have to answer to any peasant. Mr. Shuler is above them, morally, spiritually, and intelligently, but they look down on him just like they do all of us. They know Mr. Shuler already has the answers to the questions. Thus, they are not going to interview with him because that would make him relevant. Mr. Shattuck knows Mr. Shuler. And when Mr. Shuler asked for the interview, he knew the subject matter. So, commentators, stop trying to make it seem like Mr. Shuler was trying to blindside Mr. Shattuck. Mr. Shattuck chose not to defend himself. So why are you trying to make excuses for him.

N.O. mafia: Carlos Marcello
Dixie mafia: Enterprise, Al
Knight of the Golden Circle

Anonymous said...

I really could care less about any of the personal lives or who sleeps with whoever. My biggest problem is these so called "Christian Leaders" are enriching themselves (as well as a selected few) while claiming the State is broke! The taxpayers and voters have to demand more! All politicians are hypocrites but we have a serious problem when they are also CROOKS!

Anonymous said...

Read this

A number of prominent Bentley staffers are mentioned. Who were the Riley staffers?

Do a little research to see whether you believe the functioning of a Fusion Center is accurately described in the story. Use words like intelligence surveillance and spying.

What access if any might these gubernatorial appointees had to the Fusion Center and the information accessible through it?

Then read this

"In 2012 and 2013, he included that he was on a State committee for the Alabama Homeland Security Task Force. This information had not been reported before yesterday’s filings. The only State committees that had appeared on prior reports, was his membership on the State committee for Alabama Vet Net in 2013, which was omitted on the amended filing. Initially, on both reports he had selected “n/a.”"

No answers yet, only questions.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous April 24, 2016 at 8:28 PM, you may want to rethink your lack of concern about who sleeps with who. We are what we do and who we associate with! Forget what the Bible says or all the preaching you hear about the topic for a minute. Most all of the people Schuler is outing made a vow to be true and faithful to their spouse. That means, no screwing around. That's what marriage in our culture usually means -- a monogamous relationship with the person on the other side. It is a key to our culture, to nature and our survival as a species. If you don't believe it make a trip down to the "hood." Just be sure you go during daylight.

These people broke their solemn vow/pledge to the other person. So if they would break that solid vow with someone that trusted them and perhaps vice versa and someone with whom they had a close relationship (at least at some point), what in the world do you think they would do with us or to us peasants when they gain a little power.

Like poker, it is a "tell."

Yes! It is relevant.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 2:03 A.M. Adultery is legal matter in divorces. Roger, I hope you were prepared for the truth to come out it likely doesn't in most cases.

These kind of issues are like getting a DUI. Most of the time drunk drivers put themselves and others at risk many times before that are caught. I wonder what what else these guys have done. I'm sure it's not a one and done kind of thing.

Who does this guy think he is Tucker Carlson? Omg bowties are in the same genre as black framed glasses.

Robby Scott Hill said...

It's all in John Caylor's book

Robby Scott Hill said...

According to Caylor, "In February 1964, the Saturday Evening Post reported additional information about the growth of Marcello's criminal enterprises, disclosing figures prepared by the New Orleans Crime Commission. Of particular note was the prominent role which the New Orleans Mafia had come to assume under Marcello's direction by 1963." The Post also reported allegations that Alabama Football Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant had conspired with Georgia's Coach Butts to fix a game. Young Bryant Jr. grew up watching this libel case before he became Milton McGregor's business partner.

Anonymous said...

Regarding your deadline, "...Like most journalists, I work on deadline, so I ask that you respond to this e-mail by 5 p.m. on March 4."

Did you mean May 4? March 4 gives these folks almost a year to reply.

legalschnauzer said...

Sorry for the confusion, @9:54. I sent the query on March 1, 2016, and asked for a reply by March 4, 2016. They did not respond, and I wrote this post on April 23, 2016. Had they responded, I would have followed up with a post not long after March 4. But since they did not respond, and other stories started breaking (like the Bentley audio), the story got moved back from when I planned to run it.