By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama taxpayers have forked out more than $100,000 over the last 15 months to pay for attorneys defending former Gov. Robert Bentley, one of his former cabinet members and a state employee in a single lawsuit, billing records obtained by APR show.
Much of the money was spent after Bentley and former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency director Stan Stabler were no longer employed by the state.
“According to state law, all state employees and officials are entitled to legal representation paid for by the state’s self-insurance fund (the General Liability Trust Fund, or “GLTF”) whenever they are sued in their individual capacity for damages arising out of their acts or omissions committed while in the performance of their official duties,” a spokesman for Gov. Kay Ivey said. “Coverage from the fund continues even after the employee/official is separated from service as long as it relates to conduct that occurred during state service.”
Bentley, Stabler and ALEA attorney Michael Robinson are being sued by former ALEA director Spencer Collier, who is alleging the three men, along with Rebekah Mason, conspired to force Collier out of his job and then worked to ruin him professionally and financially. Mason’s attorney’s fee are apparently not being paid by the state, since she was not working as a state employee at the time of Collier’s dismissal.
If Collier is successful in his lawsuit — and a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge is set to rule on a motion to dismiss Friday morning — monetary damages, or a settlement, up to $1 million would be paid out of the GLTF as well.
Ivey’s office noted that she has no control over the payouts, except to ensure attorneys bill at no more than the state’s maximum rate of $195 per hour.
According to the bills, attorneys John Neiman and Richard Trewhella stuck to the $195 rate.
Neiman, who works for the law firm Maynard, Cooper & Gayle, in Birmingham, charged the state $43,097 in 15 months — June 2016 through August 2017 — to represent both Bentley and Stabler.
APR only received bills from Neiman, but at a hearing in the case on Monday, Bentley and Stabler were represented by three attorneys from Maynard, Cooper & Gayle. It’s unclear if the $43,097 is the total for all three attorneys or only the billing from one of the three.
Trewhella, working for the Atlanta firm of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete and representing Robinson, billed the state $66,814 for work between February and August this year.
Bentley resigned from office in early April. Stabler was pushed out by Ivey just a few days later. Since then, their attorneys have cost taxpayers at least $17,500, not counting the three most recent months.