By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Gov. Robert Bentley pressured law enforcement officers to use federal and state resources to target those critical of his relationship with senior advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason, according to high ranking officers and staff.
In an effort to find potentially damaging information on those who spoke out against the couple, Bentley instructed top law enforcement agents to investigate private citizens, in direct conflict with the law, said those close to the matter (These individual spoke on background to alreporter.com because of a criminal investigation surrounding this and other matters).
Two individuals with detailed knowledge of the incidents say Bentley ordered the use of the National Crime Information Center, (NCIC) and the Law Enforcement Tactical System (LETS) to find any incriminating evidence that might be used against attorney Donald V. Watkins, and Legal Schnauzer blogger, Roger Shuler.
These powerful databases serve as a “Google-style” search engine for law enforcement, allowing agencies to search the most private aspects of a person’s life. A search on these sites can produce social security numbers, drivers licenses numbers, property ownership, criminal history, and more. “If you really know now to use these resources you can turn a person life upside down,” said a former lawman.
Former ALEA staff and attorneys refused to cooperate with Bentley. However, some of those same individuals are not certain that new ALEA Chief Stan Stabler would be as cautious saying, “Everyone is a potential target now that Stabler is part of the cover up.”
Bentley ousted Trustees aligned Watkins from the Alabama State University (ASU) Board in in 2014. The two warred over the Governor’s authority to move these Trustees.
In an interview with alreporter.com Watkins said, “I knew he was targeting me, I have known for years that Bentley was upset by my public criticism of his administration and his policies.”
Watkins said Bentley first targeted him in 2013 using banking regulators: “We came under excessive regulatory review and are still under excessive regulatory review,” said Watkins.
He said in 2014 Bentley asked the SEC to investigate his businesses, even through they are not under SEC regulation. “That investigation went nowhere,” said Watkins.
But again, in 2015, Bentley sought a criminal investigation, according to Watkins, “I provided the investigators with all the documentation and that case was close within 30 days.”
“Every case started with a hint or a suggestion of impropriety on my part by Bentley’s Office and each case went nowhere,” said Watkins.
ALEA was twice asked to conduct a criminal investigation into Watkins, this has been confirmed by law enforcement officers.
Watkins has announced he was sending a letter to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for an investigation into Bentley actions.
Watkins began writing a regular column posting incriminating information about Bentley and his relationship with Mason on Facebook.
In a four part series entitled, “Forbidden Love – Robert Bentley’s Secret Love Affair,” Watkins wrote in detail about events which have now been confirmed by former State Law Enforcement Chief Spencer Collier and tapes discovered by al.com’s John Archibald.
In September 2015, Watkins reported, “The First Lady overheard the Governor’s steamy love talk during some of his private phone calls with Rebekah. She also read his text messages, which graphically depicted the nature and scope of the love affair between her husband and his paramour. No further proof of his infidelity was needed.”
Watkins charged that Bentley formed Alabama Council for Excellent Government, a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation to finance his paramour Mason stating, “Bentley’s former legal advisor Cooper Shattuck formed the Council at Bentley’s request. The stated purpose of the organization is to ‘support Governor Bentley in his efforts to solve real problems and to make Alabama greater, stronger and more excellent for all the hardworking men and women who call this great state our home.’ In reality, the Council is a slush fund that was set up to (a) fund Bentley’s love affair with Rebekah while concealing payments to her from the view of public oversight and accountability, and (b) stash money for life with Rebekah after the governor’s divorce from Mrs. Bentley.”
Former Bentley administration insiders say Bentley was so inflamed by Watkins’ reports that he would rant about using his power as Chief Magistrate to shut Watkins mouth and ruin his reputation.
Watkins also said, “Bentley also made sure that Rebekah Mason had unfettered access to State trooper transportation, the Governor’s mansion (at all times of the night), the State airplane, the Winton Blount mansion in Montgomery (which was donated to the State), and to any other state resource she needed to make herself fully available to the Governor for his personal pleasure.”
He also reported that, “Wendell Ray Lewis, the former head of the Governor’s security detail, took an early retirement from his job because he could no longer, in good conscience, watch and facilitate Bentley’s betrayal of Dianne, as he romanced Rebekah. In the end, Lewis was loyal to Dianne.”
Lewis has not responded to request for information, but it is believed that he will cooperate with any criminal investigation.
The Alabama Political Reporter has already confirmed the US Department of Justice is investigating the firings at ALEA, and if actions against Collier and others were part of a cover-up orchestrated by Bentley and Mason.
Shuler, on his site Legal Schnauzer, has written numerous articles on Bentley and Mason. In an August 2015 post he wrote, “Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a married mother of three from Bentley’s home base of Tuscaloosa, was the governor’s mistress in an affair that sources say raises a number of possible legal issues–including use of the state jet and a state trooper’s services for personal reasons that had nothing to do with Bentley’s official role.” He also wrote, “[S]ources say, quickly became more than just a communications director to Bentley. Their affair became so widely known that it diluted any moral authority the governor might have had. He’s been impotent as governor for at least the last six months,” one source told Legal Schnauzer. “People have been going into his office and saying, ‘Do what I want or I’m going to play the girlfriend card.’”
While the media’s and public’s attention has been primary focused on the alleged affair, Bentley’s real problems are the issues before law enforcement.