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ALEA Chief Says It’s About the Law, Not Affairs and Affidavits

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY— Governor Robert Bentley fired Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary, (ALEA) Spencer Collier, effective immediately on Tuesday in a press released without so much as a call to his longtime friend.

In his press release, Bentley alleged wrongdoing on the part of Collier. Just yesterday, Collier responded that Bentley was incorrect, and he would welcome an investigation by the FBI or the Attorney General’s Office.

ALReporter.com can now confirm that the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District is not investigating Collier, but the firings at ALEA and the closings of multiple criminal investigations, which are believed to have been ordered by Bentley and his unpaid senior advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

In an exclusive interview with ALReporter.com, Collier states that the Governor’s actions have nothing to do with improper procedure at ALEA or filing the affidavit in the Speaker Mike Hubbard felony case. It is about a long-standing coverup that Gov. Bentley and Mason have perpetrated on the State.

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“This is not retaliation for what I did. This is a desperate attempt by a desperate couple to discredit me because of what I know,” said Collier. “But above all this it is about the brave men and women at ALEA, the rule of law, and most importantly the honest hard working people of Alabama who deserve honest government.”

On Tuesday, Bentley tried pressuring Collier to resign but he refused because the accusations against him were false, Collier said. The Governor’s attorney, David Byrne, reportedly said that Bentley would wait until 10:00am Wednesday, before making a final decision. However, Bentley didn’t wait as promised and abruptly fired Collier through a press release.

“I learned via social media that I have been terminated as Alabama’s first Secretary of Law Enforcement. Mere humanity, let alone professionalism or friendship should have provided for a phone call,” said Collier. “However, I am not surprised at the Governor’s method or his behavior in handling matters as concealment and avoidance has become his modus operandi.”

In an earlier interview with John Archibald, some details of an alleged illicit affair between Bentley and Mason were revealed.

Collier says it is not the affair, but the use of state resources to facility their rendezvouses and the cover-up, that should be the focus of any reporting.

“I directly challenged the Governor on this behavior some time ago, in the presence of another senior ALEA official,” said Collier. “And I will repeat what I told him them…”I care for you greatly, but I will never lie to a grand jury for you. That was true then and it’s true now.” He also said he made both Bentley and Mason aware of his concerns saying, “The Governor and his Senior Political Advisor are both aware that I challenged their misuse of the public trust and tax dollars to conceal their improper behavior.”

Bentley, speaking at a press conference, accused Collier with misappropriations of funds. “The original allegations [against Collier] were so flimsy and trumped up that they were kicked back by ALEA and a new set of false allegations had to be imagined,” said a former member of Bentley’s inner circle with close ties to current staffers.

“I want to be abundantly clear in saying that I have done absolutely nothing wrong. Just last month, Governor Bentley praised ALEA and my leadership during the State of the State,” said Collier. “Several things have changed since then. I chose to cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office and not comply with the Governor’s directive to mislead agents or representatives from the Attorney General’s Office. His directive was to commit a criminal act and I do not apologize for doing the right thing. Law enforcement has a duty and obligation to disobey an ‘unlawful order.'”

Collier, a friend of Bentley for over 16 years, was put on medical leave after he refused an order, not to give an affidavit to the Attorney General’s Office related to Speaker Mike Hubbard’s felony criminal case. Bentley told AL.com that he was punishing Collier for refusing his order to not supply the affidavit.

In a recent statement, Collier said, “I was put on medical leave to recover. However, while gone, my name has been drug through the mud by usurpers at ALEA and political operatives in the Governor’s Office…done under the guise of not following an order.”

The affidavit was a result of allegations made by attorney and radio host, Baron Coleman, who claimed information he received from Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart may have violated the Grand Jury Secrecy Act. ALEA Special Agent Jack Wilson investigated Coleman’s claims and found no wrong doing by Hart. Wilson was then reassigned and his cases closed.

Earlier, Collier said he cooperated with Attorney General’s Office as dictated by federal and State law. “I never disobeyed a lawful order,” Collier wrote.  “In fact, as a law enforcement officer, I have a duty to disobey an unlawful order and I do not apologize for refusing to lie to the Attorney General’s Office.”

Those present at the meeting where Bentley and Collier discussed the the affidavit say the Governor asked Collier to tell State’s Attorney General’s Office that an investigation into Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart was ongoing, when it was not.

According to several individuals who claim knowledge of the situation, Mason dressed down Collier, attorney to the governor David Byrne, and others over the affidavit. After being summarily berated by Mason, according to two individuals, the governor followed suit, “reading us the riot act.”

Law enforcement officers have questioned the propriety of Mason an unpaid consultant and her presence at meetings where highly sensitive Law enforcement matters were being discussed.

Collier said, “The Governor, Stan Stabler and Gene Wiggins fired four hard working employees of ALEA who’s only crime was loyalty to me. I welcome an external review by the Attorney General’s Office or the FBI into my tenure at ALEA and will swear under oath to my actions.”

He further stated he challenged Bentley to do the same. “The Governor should simply swear under oath and articulate his actions, personnel moves and transportation leases as it pertains to his efforts to deceive the taxpayers of this state to facilitate his relationship with his Senior Political Advisor [Mason].”

Collier said he want to thank the men and women of ALEA that get up everyday and work hard for the people of Alabama. “By no means is this a disparagement upon their hard work and sacrifice.”

He added, “I want to apologize to the Bentley family for the pain they have had to endure for the past eighteen months. I apologize that his family and friends have had to watch this man morph into something unrecognizable.”

Collier says he is cooperating with the federal law enforcement in their ongoing probe into what really happened at ALEA.

 

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House passes General Fund Budget

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.

The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.

Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”

Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.

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The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.

Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.

Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.

The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.

Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.

The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.

Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.

The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.

In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.

SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.

Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”

State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”

The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.

The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.

The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.

The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.

Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.

SB185 passed 101-0.

Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.

Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1  for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.

SB215 passed the House 87-0.

The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.

State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.

SB231 passed 87-2.

The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.

The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.

The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.

Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.

Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.

Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.

 

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Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday

Sam Mattison

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By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.

Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.

Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.

The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.

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Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.

Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.

Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.

Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.

Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.

Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.

The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.

Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.

It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.

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Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor

Sam Mattison

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By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.

The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.

Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.

Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.

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Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.

Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.

The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.

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ALEA Chief Says It’s About the Law, Not Affairs and Affidavits

by Bill Britt Read Time: 6 min
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