|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
Bentley's extramarital relationship with senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason led to his resignation as governor in April 2017. Spencer Collier's lawsuit recently produced deposition testimony in which Bentley acknowledged discussing criminal investigations of myself and Donald Watkins, the two online journalists who wrote extensively about the Mason scandal for roughly seven months before the mainstream media took serious notice. Bentley also claimed in the deposition that his fondling of Mason in state facilities did not constitute inappropriate workplace behavior.
Collier's legal team, led by Montgomery attorney Kenneth Mendelsohn, now has filed a motion to compel, seeking to force Bentley to produce documents about donors to the nonprofit Alabama Council for Excellence in Government (ACEGOV), which is alleged to have been a slush fund for paying Mason. (The motion to compel is embedded at the end of this post.) Collier specifically seeks information about donations that were intended to affect the criminal prosecution of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard. From the APR article by Bill Britt:
A motion to compel disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley to provide donors and contributions to the political nonprofit that paid his girlfriend was filed in Montgomery Circuit Court on Monday in the wrongful terminations suit brought by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier.
Collier is seeking information on donations to ACEGOV a 501(c)(4) set-up to promote Bentley’s political agenda by then-General Counsel Cooper Shattuck in February 2015.
One prominent question is whether donations to ACEGOV were intended to influence the state’s felony case against Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.
Collier was fired from his position at ALEA after he refused to lie to prosecutors in the Hubbard case as Bentley had ordered him to do.
Collier's firing, reports Britt, grew from the efforts of Hubbard attorney Lance Bell to arrange for Montgomery lawyer and radio host Baron Coleman to file a complaint, accusing prosecutor Matt Hart of leaking grand-jury information. (An affidavit about Bell's actions, from current ALEA secretary Hal Taylor, is embedded at the end of this post.) Hubbard trial judge Jacob Walker III dismissed the Coleman complaint, but Collier says Bentley fired him largely for writing an affidavit stating that Hart was not under ALEA investigation because of the Coleman document. From the motion to compel:
Unbeknownst to Collier at the time but confirmed by Bentley in his deposition, Bentley and his staff had been meeting with Hubbard’s lawyers, legislators who were friends of Hubbard and individuals identified in Hubbard’s indictment to discuss Bentley removing Assistant AG Hart from the Hubbard case or appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the AGO. Contrary to what we all learned in 6th grade Civics Class about Separation of Power, Bentley seriously considered trying to use his Office to remove Hart from the Hubbard case. It was only later that someone advised Bentley that he did not have that power.
This likely is the strongest statement to date about coordination between Hubbard's team and Bentley's office during the criminal trial. That coordination, and related financial transactions, might have played a central role in Collier's termination. Bentley stated in his deposition that Homewood attorney Rob Riley was among several Republicans pressuring the governor to intervene in the Hubbard case. Bill Britt provides more background:
Among ACEGOV expenditures was a payment of $2,500 per month plus expenses to Bentley’s paramour, Rebekah Caldwell Mason’s, company, RCM Communications, Inc., who is also a defendant in Collier’s lawsuit. Bentley testified that Mason was also being paid through his 2014 Campaign, even two years after the election.
In Montgomery, ACEGOV was widely known as the “girlfriend fund,” because it was used to pay Bentley’s former special advisor, Mason.
“The fact that a portion of these contributions were used by ACEGOV to pay Bentley’s girlfriend, a co-defendant in this case, is clearly relevant to this case,” states Collier’s motion. “The requested information goes directly to the pattern and practice claims, the potential bias between Bentley and Mason and punitive damages.”
Collier argues he is entitled to know if any money funneled to Mason through ACEGOV came from Hubbard supporters, which would go to Bentley’s motive to destroy him.
In essence, it’s believed that ACEGOV was a honey hole to curry favors with Bentley who then may have acted to benefit donors.