MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is accused of using state resources to hide his affair with a top aide and faces impeachment hearings before the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.
The committee’s special counsel detailed the evidence in an investigative report posted online that includes text messages, documents and audio. The governor’s lawyer said it is an “amalgam of hearsay, rumor and innuendo.”
Here are some of the evidence and accusations.
“I sure miss you. I need you. I want you. You are the only one,” the governor said in a text message to Rebekah Caldwell Mason, his top aide at the time.
The governor’s then-wife, Dianne Bentley, was able to read the text messages because they also showed up on his state-issued iPad, which he had given the first lady. Dianne Bentley provided the messages to the committee.
SECRET SULTRY RECORDINGS
In March 2014, a suspicious Dianne Bentley secretly recorded her husband making a phone call, presumably to Mason. She started the recorder on her phone and left it in her purse, telling her husband she was going for a walk on the beach. In less than a minute after she was gone, the governor makes a call and professes his love to Mason, according to the report.
The governor’s efforts to uncover and retrieve the recording became a key part of the report, as well as the basis of one of the accusations the Alabama Ethics Commission made saying he misused state personnel and resources. The commission has referred the case to a prosecutor to decide whether Bentley should face criminal charges.
FIND THE LEAKER
On election night 2014, the governor believed his opponent had a copy of the tape, and suspected a scheduler might have leaked it, according to the report. He ordered Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier to travel to Greenville to confront her. Collier recounted the story last year in a news conference, a day after being fired by Bentley. Collier, after learning of the tapes, said then that he confronted Bentley about the relationship. The governor also asked state law enforcement to look into who mailed letters to Mason criticizing her about the relationship, the report said.
ALLEGED THREAT TO STAFFER
Heather Hannah, the first lady’s chief of staff, told the special counsel that Bentley twice delivered what she considered threats because he believed she had helped his wife record his steamy conversation with Mason.
“He confronted me one night, he came in and put his finger in my face and was like you will never work in the state of Alabama again if you tell anybody about this,” she said. The confrontation happened in the kitchen of the governor’s mansion, she said.
Hannah said the first lady brought her the recordings and asked her to make a copy. The first lady called her husband “dumb” after catching him and was upset because “part of her still was trying to hold on to the fact that he was not having an affair,” Hannah said.
PLANE AND AUTOMOBILE USAGE
The governor’s former protection detail leader Ray Lewis testified that he expressed concern about Mason flying on state aircraft with the governor since she was not a state employee.
He said the governor’s campaign leased an aircraft. “He said to me the reason he leased the plane was so that Rebekah could be on the plane because he knew I objected to having her on the state aircraft,” Lewis told the special counsel.
Lewis also testified that on at least one instance, the governor asked him to stop and pick up Mason as they were driving to an event in Birmingham.
The special counsel said the governor “prematurely and publicly” accused Collier of criminal conduct.
Collier was fired by Bentley in 2016 when the administration said an internal review uncovered possible misuse of state funds. Collier had a bombshell news conference the next day and accused Bentley of having an affair.
The special counsel’s report said the governor later released an incomplete internal investigative report about Collier. The documents were given to the committee and obtained by the media as part of a public records request.