At a hastily called news conference on the Capitol steps, Alabama's embattled governor faced the public and made his first statement since the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that he had violated ethics and campaign-finance law. From a report at al.com:
"I have done nothing illegal," the governor said. "If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no, I have not."
Question: If Bentley has done nothing illegal, why has he agreed to resign (apparently seeking to stay out of prison), according to a report this morning from Josh Moon and Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Reporter?
Back to Friday: Later that day, the House Judiciary Committee (HJC) released its Impeachment Report, showing that Bentley had, in fact, misused state resources on his extramarital affair with aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason. The committee provided plenty of specifics, citing at least five examples where Bentley used state resources to facilitate or cover up the affair. Actually, the following five examples involve only the misuse of security chief Ray Lewis. The report includes at least six examples of Bentley's misuse of other law-enforcement personnel. (See pp. 82-90 in report, which is embedded at the end of this post.)
Here are the five examples involving Ray Lewis:
(1) Governor Bentley asks Ray Lewis to break up with Rebekah Mason for him.
When Lewis arrived at the Capitol, Governor Bentley met him at the door to his office and seemed to Lewis to have been crying. Lewis went into the office with Governor Bentley to see Rebekah Mason, who also seemed to have been crying. Governor Bentley told Lewis that Ms. Bentley thought he and Mason were having an affair and that someone had made an audio recording of him and Mason talking on the phone. Governor Bentley thought his son, Paul, had the recording. Governor Bentley asked Lewis to go to Tuscaloosa to meet with Paul and to try to get Paul to hand it over.
Lewis recalls that he responded to Governor Bentley: “[A]re you telling me this is true, the affair is true?” Governor Bentley admitted the affair to Lewis and told him there were things on the recording he would not want anyone to hear.
Governor Bentley then sent Mason out of the room and asked her to wait in the Lieutenant Governor’s conference room on the second floor of the Capitol. With Mason out of the room, Governor Bentley and Lewis discussed the situation. Lewis says he expressed to Governor Bentley that the affair was wrong and had to end. Lewis says he told Governor Bentley that the affair would be an embarrassment to him, his family, and the State of Alabama. Governor Bentley agreed with Lewis. Lewis was disappointed and “shocked” by the realization that Governor Bentley had had an affair with Mason. Governor Bentley was embarrassed and asked Lewis to go upstairs to meet with Mason and end the relationship.
(2) Ray Lewis attempts to retrieve the tapes.
Lewis left the Lieutenant Governor’s conference room and immediately drove to Tuscaloosa, on Governor Bentley’s orders, in his state vehicle, to try to retrieve the tapes from Governor Bentley’s son, Paul Bentley. Lewis called ahead, and Paul invited him to his office. When Lewis arrived, he asked Paul if he had the tapes. Paul replied: “Yes, and you ain’t getting it.” Paul told Lewis that he could not bring himself to listen to the full recording, but that his wife Melissa had a copy.
Lewis reported the results of his Tuscaloosa mission to Governor Bentley over the phone and told him that the tapes existed.
(3) Governor Bentley directs Ray Lewis to visit Mason in Gulf Shores.
In that same phone conversation, Governor Bentley told Lewis that Rebekah Mason was just not getting it and directed Lewis to drive to Gulf Shores in the morning to break up with her again. He instructed Lewis to leave early so that he could reach Mason before her husband arrived. Lewis prepared to depart on the mission in his state vehicle the next morning, but Governor Bentley called him and told him not to go. Lewis cannot remember for certain whether he had already departed on the mission when Governor Bentley called him off.
(4) Requests for surveillance sweeps of Mason’s vehicle.
Corporal Nance Bishop of ALEA recalls that relatively early in the re-election campaign of 2014, he was asked to perform a sweep of Rebekah Mason’s personal vehicle for bugs or listening devices. Bishop could not recall specifically who made the request, except that it came from a group of Governor Bentley’s officers that included Collier and Stabler. Bishop refused the request because it was campaign-related and not related to government work.
Ray Lewis says that Bishop told him about this request soon after it was made. Lewis said he discussed this request with Bishop because, at the time, “everybody was concerned about what was going on” with Rebekah Mason.
(5) Governor Bentley demands that Rebekah Mason travel on state transports.
Rebekah Mason ceased to be an employee of the Office of the Governor in July 2013 when she began working for Governor Bentley’s re-election campaign. She did not surrender her security credentials for access to the Capitol, however, as other staff members were required to do upon transitioning to the campaign. Ray Lewis testified that he is not aware of any other staff member who was permitted to retain security access in this way.
Furthermore, it was Lewis’s understanding that Mason, after leaving the employ of the State, could not accompany Governor Bentley on official transportation, including flights on State planes or movements in State vehicles. Lewis frequently found himself in the awkward position of addressing this with Governor Bentley.
Lewis says he told Governor Bentley several times of the need to keep Mason’s movements separate from Governor Bentley’s official movements, and that he could not provide security services to non-state personnel. Lewis testified that Governor Bentley indicated that he knew and understood this. In fact, Lewis testified, this rule was consistently applied to others, like Zach Lee, who had left the Office of the Governor for the campaign. . . .
Nonetheless, on multiple occasions, and with a frequency that increased as the relationship between Governor Bentley and Mason grew, Lewis found himself overruled by Governor Bentley. Lewis recalls one occasion when he instructed Governor Bentley’s Director of Scheduling Linda Adams, while planning for a trip, not to put Mason on the State plane. Later that day, Governor Bentley called Lewis and ordered him to put Mason on the flight. Lewis recalls telling Governor Bentley: “Sir, I disagree with that, but you’re the governor and I will respect your wishes.” Lewis believes this conversation was the beginning of the deterioration of his relationship with Governor Bentley.
How adamant was Bentley that Mason fly with him? He decided to lease a private plane, in order to get around reporting requirements connected to state aircraft.
In 2014, Bentley for Governor, Inc. leased a plane from a company based near Atlanta. Lewis testified that Governor Bentley told him that he had leased the plane so that Mason could travel on it. The company used private pilots, and Lewis was limited in his ability to vet them. For State recordkeeping purposes, Linda Adams attempted to find out and document basic information about flights that Governor Bentley took on the leased campaign plane. Governor Bentley has not made any of these records available.
On August 4, 2014, the day before Lewis and Collier confronted Governor Bentley about the tapes (described in detail below), Governor Bentley told Lewis and other staff members that he wanted Mason on the leased plane with him. Lewis recalls Governor Bentley telling him: “She’s needs to be able to do her job, so she will be on the airplane.”
Lewis was becoming increasingly worried during this period that he would lose his job because of Rebekah Mason. He looked back with the benefit of hindsight on the occasion when Governor Bentley had asked him to confront the female staff in Governor Bentley’s office for gossiping about an affair that (Lewis now knew) had actually been happening. Lewis realized that Governor Bentley had used him as a tool and that he could not trust Governor Bentley. Lewis said: “[A]fter seeing how the governor was dealing with his family situation and he really didn’t care what Ms. Bentley thought or anybody else thought, I knew that if I were putting people on the plane like Ms. Mason, that I felt like he wouldn’t take responsibility for it. He would simply say I didn’t do that, Ray Lewis did it." Lewis testified that it was for this reason that he began making a record of daily events in his personal calendar.
Let's return briefly to Bentley's press statement of last Friday morning. From al.com:
Bentley said he had struggled in recent years, admitted he had made mistakes and apologized. He did not go into specifics.
"Once again, let me say to the people of this state how sorry I am to all of our people," Bentley said. "To all of you. There's no doubt that I have let you down. But all I ask is that you continue to pray for me and I will continue to pray for you."
Bentley repeated what he has said before, that he believes he is doing a job God called him to do.
"My motivation is to do what I truly believe God called me to do," Bentley said. "That's to work hard and to serve our state and to serve and love the people of this great state of Alabama. God bless them and may God bless this great state as I continue to try to serve in the way that God has placed me in this position."
Gee, imagine how much the "Luv Guv" would have lied to us if he weren't such a "fine, Christian man."
Alabama House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Report, Including Exhibits