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Opinion | What in the world happened to Robert Bentley?

Josh Moon

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Being governor is hard.

It’s a tough, gruelling job that requires 24-hour attention and results in long, long days for the man or woman who holds the position. Such a job can wear on a person, grinding them down physically and mentally.

And if you doubt the negative effects that such a job can have on the mental stability of a person, consider former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Because somewhere between his first inauguration in 2011 and his stunning forced resignation in 2016, Bentley lost his mind.

And it’s still gone today.

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In a recent deposition in a wrongful termination civil suit filed by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier, Bentley provided some of the weirdest, most perplexing answers.

Like, for example, on the topic of his wife of 50 years, Dianne, discovering his relationship with his staffer, Rebekah Mason, Bentley was asked if Dianne found the relationship inappropriate.

“I’m sure that she did,” he responded.

“Do you consider the relationship inappropriate?” Bentley was asked by Collier’s attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn.

“No,” the former governor said flatly.

Um, say what?

That also seemed to be the general reaction in the deposition room to this answer. Because Mendelsohn immediately followed up with questions about Bentley’s multiple press conferences in 2016, during which he spoke of his “inappropriate relationship” with Mason.

I know this to be true because I attended all of those press conferences. I heard him say these things, express remorse for his actions, apologize to his family.

As a matter of fact, that he ONLY had an inappropriate relationship — and not a sexual relationship — with Mason was his entire defense at those press conferences.  

By the way, he’s held on to that “we didn’t have sexual intercourse” claim, too. Doubled and tripled down on it during this deposition, claiming there was a lot of touching and kissing but no sex.

No intercourse. No oral sex.

But really, I’m just not sure how much faith we can put in the former governor’s statements about his relationship with Mason. And I say that because of one specific exchange between Bentley and Mendelsohn. One exchange that is so unbelievable, so off-the-wall bonkers that you have to wonder if Bentley has wandered into space cadet territory.

That exchange comes after his astounding assertion that the relationship with Mason — who now works for him, making $5,000 per month at his dermatology practice — wasn’t inappropriate.

Mendelsohn asks Bentley why — if the relationship with Mason wasn’t inappropriate — did Bentley hold multiple press conferences to apologize.

Bentley says he doesn’t know.

No. Not that he doesn’t recall why he did it. But he literally doesn’t know why he was apologizing.

“At that time, I didn’t know what I was apologizing for, because I didn’t even know what I was talking about,” Bentley insists. “You know, I apologized for inappropriate things that I may have said, but at that time I didn’t know what those things were. If I had to do over again, I probably wouldn’t have had a press conference that day.”

Bentley insists repeatedly that when he apologized during a press conference — a press conference specifically called to refute claims made by Collier, who had held his own press conference a few hours earlier — he had no idea why he was talking. He had never heard the tapes, Bentley says, of him describing how he loves to walk up behind Mason and put his hands on her breasts.

According Bentley, he didn’t watch Collier’s press conference. No one told him what was said.

He just grabbed a prepared statement and started talking.

Ohhhhh, and if you think that’s some insanity, try this on: Bentley claims he wasn’t sure it was Mason who was on the other end of those calls Diane Bentley secretly recorded.

“I’m not denying it was her, I’m just saying there’s no concrete evidence that it was her,” Bentley said. “But most likely it was.”

Mendelsohn, obviously flabbergasted by this, asks the obvious: “As we sit here today, I’m asking you, was it her?”

Bentley: “I don’t remember doing that. I don’t remember the tapes.”

Mendelsohn: “Is there anybody else that you would have been talking to about holding their breasts and pulling them up close to you, like what’s in the tapes?”

Bentley: “I don’t remember the tapes. I don’t remember doing what it says on the tapes.”

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say about that.

But I can say this. When he was the upset winner in 2010 and became governor, Robert Bentley had a lot of people who believed in him, a lot of people who thought he was a good and decent guy who would try to do a good job.

Those same people have no idea what happened to that man.

And judging by this deposition, he’s still lost.

 

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Opinion | This is why Alabama’s government is broken

Josh Moon

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We don’t deserve nice things.

Not in this state. Not in a state where voters routinely reward the pandering foolishness of conmen.

Conmen like Steve Marshall.

Alabama’s attorney general — the man who appears to be leading in the race to retain that office — provided a master class last week in all that is wrong with Alabama politics.

Early last week, Marshall wrote in a letter to the chairman of the West Morgan East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority promising to look into issues with pollution caused by a 3M plant in nearby Decatur.

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Marshall’s letter came in response to a letter from the WMEL, asking that Marshall, on behalf of the State of Alabama, join a lawsuit against the company. Marshall claimed that it was the first he had heard of the problems, and that the WMEL letter was the first time he had been asked about the pollution problem — a problem so dire that thousands of residents aren’t drinking their tap water.

Now, let us be clear about one thing: That is an absolute lie.

Steve Marshall was told of these problems months ago, and an attorney representing the water authority has the receipts to prove it.

But for a moment, let’s set that aside. I’ll get back to it later.

For now, let’s move on to later in the week.

On Friday, Marshall’s office sent out a press release announcing that Marshall was leading 13 states in filing a brief about a cross being removed from a park in Pensacola, Fla.

The release went into some detail about how this historic cross came to be, and it recounted the numerous events held by townspeople in Pensacola in front of that cross.

And this — this right here — is why we don’t deserve nice things.

Because the Alabama attorney general believes it to be more politically advantageous to educate himself and file briefs about a cross in another damn state than he does to insert himself in a problem that has led to thousands of his constituents being unable to drink their tap water.

How can that be?

How can it be that the majority voters of this state are more concerned about this pandering nonsense in another state than they are about one of this state’s major waterways and thousands of good people dealing with the effects of poison water?

And you know, don’t tell me that’s not true, that voters really do care. Because I know it’s true.

Year after year after year, the Tennessee River and other waters in this state become increasingly more polluted by the industries that dump their waste into them, and this state’s citizens — allegedly filled with avid and serious fishermen — continue to elect politicians who do absolutely nothing to stop it.

And even worse: They elect people who help facilitate the pollution.

Which brings me back to Marshall’s claims of being totally unaware of this problem that has been going on for three-plus years and affecting thousands of people and reported on extensively by pretty much every media outlet in this state.

He seems to be lying.

Carl Cole, an attorney for WMEL, posted on his Facebook page last week details of the ongoing case. In doing so, he revealed two key things: 1. That former AG Luther Strange and attorneys from his office had held numerous meetings with the parties involved and were actively engaged when Strange was appointed to the U.S. Senate, and 2. Cole personally informed Marshall of the case and asked the AG about his plans during one of Marshall’s trips to Decatur several weeks ago.

There is zero chance that no one at the AG’s office mentioned this ongoing case to the incoming AG. And even if that did happen, there was an attorney informing Marshall of the case this past summer.

And still, Marshall did nothing. Until a reporter showed up to ask questions about it, at which time Marshall’s office threatened the reporter and tried to have her removed from the story.  

This is the guy who is the frontrunner in the AG’s race.

And this is why we will never, ever have nice things.  

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Opinion | Maddox accuses Ivey and staff of having used private email accounts

Brandon Moseley

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Walt Maddox (D) accused Kay Ivey and members of her Lieutenant Governor’s staff of having used private email accounts.

Maddox claimed that according to records currently housed in the state archives, then Lt. Governor Ivey and members of her staff were using private email accounts on a regular basis and, in some cases, using those unofficial accounts to conduct state business.

“The discovery that Kay Ivey’s staff used private email servers during a period of time when there are so many questions about what actually occurred in Colorado in 2015, is disturbing,” Maddox said. “These private email servers are not available to be searched when a public records request is made, and that should be very troubling to the every Alabamian who wants open, honest government. This continues an unacceptable pattern of secrecy and non disclosure by Kay Ivey. Accordingly, In addition to the questions I requested Governor Ivey answer regarding allegations of misuse of law enforcement and potential cover-up, she should immediately, in the interest of full disclosure, take immediate steps to release all email records for the following accounts: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and unidentified account ‘Susan Anthony’.”

While Ivey was Lt. Governor, the state implemented the failed STAARS software system that in many cases left systems virtually inoperable. Many people in state government were using private email accounts to avoid the troubled state system. STAARS has since been discontinued. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while U.S. Secretary of State was raised as a political issue by Republicans because they contend that she jeopardized American intelligence assets and special operations. The state of Alabama does not do special operations missions or have a spy network to protect.

At a news conference last week, Walt Maddox raised questions about a brief illness that Ivey had while she was traveling on state business in Colorado three years ago.

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Maddox is running for governor in one of the reddest states in the entire country. He is running against the third most popular governor in the entire country. On Friday, Ivey announced another record high employment report. Wages are soaring. Ivey has announced thousands of new jobs including: a new Mazda – Toyota assembly plant, a new Blue Origin rocket engine plant, and an Amazon distribution center. Maddox has been running on: expanding Medicaid, raising fuel taxes 12 cents a gallon, an agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians and a lottery while claiming to be a pro-life, pro-gun Democrat. It has not been working. Kay Ivey is up by as much as 20 points in recent polling and appears to be cruising to an easy victory, so the Maddox campaign is trying to go negative with allegations and speculation about conspiracy theories with just two weeks left to try to overtake the popular woman governor.

Maddox is the Mayor of Tuscaloosa. He is a former Alabama Education Association (AEA) Uniserve director.

The Ivey campaign has been emphasizing job growth, the economy and Ivey’s efforts to increase pre-K classrooms and computer science classes.

Ivey is a former treasurer, a former Lt. Gov, and was elevated to governor in April 2017.

The general election will be held on November 6.

Remember to bring a valid photo ID to the polls.

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Elections

Opinion | Collier’s allegations are not about Ivey’s health — they’re about retaliation

Josh Moon

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It’s not the (alleged) stroke, it’s the coverup.

That was the message from Walt Maddox and his campaign on Thursday, as they took shots at Gov. Kay Ivey for allegedly directing her security detail to cover up a health scare in 2015. She’s also alleged to have demoted a state trooper from her security team after he refused to conceal from his superiors a trip to the hospital Ivey was forced to take while attending a conference in Colorado.

And the story could use a little refocusing.

After APR’s Bill Britt wrote a story Monday that quoted former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier confirming the hospital trip for “stroke-like symptoms” and providing details of his conversations with Ivey about demoting the trooper, the story from state media outlets veered off course.

Instead of the focus landing on Ivey’s mistreatment of a law enforcement officer who was simply doing his job correctly, it became all about her health.

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Was she sick? Did she have a stroke? How’s her health these days?

Those are all fair questions.

They’re just not THE question that should have come from Collier’s revelations.

Because if Ivey did what Collier alleges, she possibly broke the law. And maybe, more importantly, she took money out of the pocket of a trooper who was trying to support a family simply because he refused to conceal her trip to the hospital.

That sort of behavior … well, we’ve seen that before in this state.

Mike Hubbard and Robert Bentley both went after law enforcement when they were initially caught in lies and illegalities.

Hubbard tried to defund the entire Alabama Attorney General’s Office and squeeze the prosecutors on his trail. He later launched public attacks against the lead prosecutor, Matt Hart, in a failed attempt to get out from under his misdeeds.

Bentley asked Collier, who was then head of ALEA, to lie to AG’s office investigators. And when Collier, after being terminated by Bentley for refusing to lie, told the world of the then-governor’s affair, Bentley set out to ruin the man.

Both Bentley and Hubbard wound up in jail for brief periods. And Alabamians wound up with more black eyes from the nation’s most corrupt state government.

That’s why this deal with the trooper matters so much.

Because it speaks to the character of Kay Ivey.

I mean, would she really demote this poor guy — the same trooper who sat by her hospital bed for three days — force him to uproot his family and go from the Montgomery area to Houston County, cut his pay and stifle his career because he followed trooper regulations instead of her improper/illegal directives?

Would she?

Because I think that’s something we should know.

Ivey, in response to Maddox’s comments on Thursday, told reporters that they should “check” the facts on the trooper, Drew Brooks.

I’ve done that.

I have copies from his personnel file showing where he lost pay and was sent from the governor’s security detail — a sought-after position — to giving out drivers licenses in Dothan — a very much not-sought-after position.



If Ivey has records indicating these things didn’t happen, I’d love to see them. And I’d also love to see records of her trip to Colorado in 2015.

Because right now, this is looking like a very familiar road.

A candidate who won’t debate. A politician who plays a little loose with the rules and law. A career politician who would do anything to stay in the game. A desperate politician who will stoop to any level to conceal their flaws and errors.

It all rings a bell, doesn’t it?

Mike Hubbard.

Robert Bentley.

Kay Ivey?

 

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Elections

Opinion | Kay Ivey’s official calendar is surprisingly empty

Josh Moon

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In late-August and early-September, there was one question dominating Alabama’s governor’s race.

Where is Kay Ivey?

The governor at that point had scarcely been seen in a few days. In one 10-day stretch, she held no public events and somehow managed to avoid even local ribbon cuttings and bridge openings. And her opponent’s campaign was raising questions about her lack of activity.

Walt Maddox, at that point, had already challenged Ivey to a series of debates. She declined, offering a number of excuses, including that she was “busy governing the state.” She had also told her Republican primary challengers that she was “too busy” to debate them.

So, I wanted to know: Who was telling the truth? Was it a big deal? Was Ivey too busy?

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There was only one way to find out: I filed an Alabama Open Records Act request for Ivey’s official calendar for a three-week span (Aug. 24 through Sept. 14).

That span, I figured, would provide a solid look into Ivey’s days and would cover all of the days that the Maddox campaign had questioned her whereabouts.

On Wednesday, after paying $17 and some change to a public entity to produce public records that the public had already paid to be produced once, APR was provided with copies of Ivey’s official calendar.

Counting every entry on the calendar for 21 days — including travel time to and from the governor’s mansion (which apparently takes 30 minutes) and air travel to a variety of meetings and ribbon cuttings — there are less than 60 hours accounted for.

That’s less than three hours per day.

But it’s actually worse than that, because most of that time is compacted into a handful of days, leaving large chunks of time — whole calendar pages — simply blank.

In total, seven days were blank. Three other days had just one entry.

In one calendar week — Sunday, Sept. 2, thru Saturday, Sept. 8 — Ivey’s calendar shows just three and a half hours of scheduled time.

That week, her days were completely blank on Sunday, Labor Day Monday and Tuesday. She had a single phone call on Wednesday and a single meeting on Thursday. She hosted the Alabama Association of Regional Councils on Friday morning and wrapped up the grueling week with a proclamation signing at 10:30 a.m. that Friday.

I’ll remind you that this is the governor — a governor in the midst of a campaign.

You would think her calendar would be crammed with events and meetings and staff scrums and trips all over the place.

But … there’s just nothing.

And that’s not normal. I know that for a fact.

I’ve been to the Alabama Archives and sorted through the official calendars for the last three governors of this state. None of their calendars look like Ivey’s. Not even close.

I shared photos on Facebook Wednesday night of entries from random days on Robert Bentley’s calendar. In some instances, his days spilled over onto a second page.

The same was true with Bob Riley. His days, like Bentley’s, seemed to be planned from morning until night. Every day. Even on the weekends.

What’s happening with Kay Ivey should raise eyebrows and a ton of questions. Mainly: Can she actually do this job?

I think that’s a fair question at this point, after the public freeze-ups, the long disappearances, the managed time by her staff, the refusal to debate, and now these nearly blank calendar days.

And then there are two other questions:

Who is running this state?

And who are you voting for?

 

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Opinion | What in the world happened to Robert Bentley?

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