By Bill Britt
Alabama Politcal Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Insiders privy to meetings between Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier and Gov. Robert Bentley claim, the Governor asked Collier to tell the State’s Attorney General’s Office that an investigation into Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart was on going, when it was not.
Bentley’s conversation with Collier was due to an investigation into allegations made by attorney and radio host, Baron Coleman, that he concluded that Hart had improperly share Grand Jury information with him. This resulted in an affidavit from Collier and Special Agent Jack Wilson, stating the Coleman allegations against Hart had no merit.
Bentley told al.com that he ordered Collier not to give the affidavit to the Attorney General’s Office. According to those with intimate knowledge of the situation, Bentley asked Collier to tell the Attorney General’s Office that the investigation into Coleman’s allegations against Hart was ongoing.
If these individuals’ claims are factual, there may be more to the story than an order from Bentley to his Chief of Law Enforcement Officer.
Those in the meeting when Bentley told Collier he should tell the Attorney General Office the investigation was ongoing were: Special Agent Jack Wilson, ALEA, Chief Attorney Jason Swann and the Governor’s attorney David Byrne.
Law Enforcement officers speaking on background said this falls under several state statues including providing false statements or witness tampering.
Enacted in 2011, Ala. Code Section 36-15-62.1, makes it a Class C felony to providing false statements relating to any matter under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office.
(a) Any person who knowingly commits any of the following in any matter under investigation by the Attorney General, or a prosecutor or investigator of his or her office, upon conviction shall be guilty of a Class C felony:
(1) Falsifying, concealing, or covering up a material fact by any trick, scheme, or device.
(2) Making a materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation.
3) Making or using a false writing or document, knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent entry.
(4) Destroying, concealing, or secreting any document or other physical evidence.
(b) Conviction, arrest, or prosecution of the matter originally under investigation is not a prerequisite to conviction under this section.
According to the al.com report, Bentley sought to punish Collier for disobeying his order. Collier was placed on a three-month medical leave.
Bentley’s office wasted no time temporarily replacing the profile of Secretary of Law Enforcement Collier with Stan Stabler.
Collier has not been spared the embarrassment of planted stories in favored media, alleging possible wrong doing by Bentley’s long-time friend and others.
Those inside the administration have even said the recent firings of ALEA top officials and those close to Collier are related to “internal investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing by some employees and staff related to the misappropriation of State dollars and resources,” according to an article by Chuck Dean, an intimate of Bentley’s chief advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Columnist John Archibald recently wrote, “Her very word sends shivers through state employees. Because they believe she is the de facto governor, that her word has become Alabama law.”
Close associates of the Governor have expressed grave concern about their relationship, fearing Mason is encouraging Bentley to engage in a public cover-up that includes the firing of: JT Jenkins, ALEA’s second-in-command; Jay Howell; Camilla Gibson; and Collier’s personnel assistant, Merritt Hayes.
Special Agent Jack Wilson, who is believed to be working on several investigations involving the Bentley Administration and the State Senate, has been reassigned. John “Hal” Taylor was also reassigned.
According to a source close to those cases said Wilson was in the final stages of the Senate investigation, was awaiting guidance from the Attorney General’s Office, while the investigation into the Administration was ongoing. It has been reported that Wilson has been ordered to close these cases, and his files have been taken by the SBI Director. Meanwhile, Wilson has been transferred back to Mobile.
Those inside ALEA say the claims made in al.com are patently false and that Stabler is providing cover for Bentley’s removal of his longtime supporter Collier, and those close to him.
Collier, who was raised by a single mom, has stated on numerous occasions that Bentley was like the father he had never known. Those close to Collier say he has been deeply wounded by Bentley’s actions, but has firm resolve to get well and fulfill his obligation to uphold the law. Collier recently underwent back surgery and is on medical leave.