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What We Know, What We Think, What We Can Prove

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

A growing chorus of opinion makers, newspapers and politicos are calling for Governor Robert Bentley to resign or be impeached. Some of the most strident voices calling for Bentley’s head, are the ones who stood on stage with Speaker Mike Hubbard after his indictment on 23 felony counts of public corruption. And it took most opinion writers and newspapers a long time to call for Hubbard to step down.

Good reporters will ask themselves three questions, when digging into a complex story concerning public corruption or public scandal: What do we know, what do we think and what can we prove?

Public scandals like the Bentley/Mason affair spark public outrage, with more heat and fury than public corruption. Most Alabamians are too busy to digest the intricacies of 23 felonies, and while Hubbard is an immensely powerful figure in State government, he is not as widely known as Bentley. People can immediately understand scandal and naturally have a visceral reaction, and with constant drip of new revelations, Bentley’s credibility is all but trashed beyond repair.

What do we know?

Bentley has admitted to using inappropriate sexually-charged language in conversation with Mason, his close advisor.

What do we think?

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Most likely there is more to this than just a sexting and a FaceTime affair.

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What can we prove?

Bentley used inappropriate sexually-charged language in conversation with Mason.

What do we know?

Mason was paid from Bentley’s campaign account and a 501(c)4.

What do we think?

Mason and Bentley may have broken ethics laws and campaign finances laws.

What can we prove?

Mason was paid from Bentley’s campaign account and a 501(c)4.

What do we know?

Bentley created a job for Mason’s husband, Jon. He was given a substantial raise around the time Mason and Bentley began their texting and Face Time affair. The Mason’s company was paid a over $200,000 from the University of Alabama over the last several years.

What do we think?

The agency that Bentley created, for Jon Mason needs to be audited and a full disclosure of funds, both public and federal, need to be justified. There may be some irregularities and the UA money is suspicious.

What can we prove?

Bentley created a job for Mason’s husband, Jon. He was given a substantial raise, the Mason’s company was paid a over $200,000 from the University of Alabama over the last several years.

What do we know?

Bentley has admitted to ordering Spencer Collier, then head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), not to give an affidavit to the Attorney General’s Office, in an investigation related to the Hubbard case.

Collier said, Bentley wanted him to lie to Attorney General’s Office. Bentley also admitted that he placed Collier on medical leave to punish him for disobeying his order.

What do we think?

Bentley may be facing an obstruction and witness tampering investigation.

What can we prove?

Bentley ordered Spencer Collier not to give an affidavit to the Attorney General’s Office. He placed Collier on leave as punishment.

What do we know?

Bentley placed his body man, Stan Stabler, in charge of ALEA. Four days after taking over, Stabler fired four staffers close to Collier and reassigned others.

What do we think?

This looks to be part of a cover-up orchestrated by Bentley and Mason. It is illegal to lie to the Attorney General or his agents. Witness tampering is a crime.

What can we prove?

Bentley placed his body man, Stan Stabler, in charge of ALEA. Four days after taking over, Stabler fires four staffers close to Collier and reassigned others.

What do we know?

SBI Director Gene Wiggins, orders cases being investigated by Special Agent Jack Wilson closed. Wiggins physically takes the files from Wilson. Wilson complains and wants to go to Attorney General for help, but is threatened by Wiggins. Agent Wilson in transferred back to Mobile. One of the investigations that were closed, concerned State Sen. Phil Williams.

What do we think?

Reportedly, Williams asked Bentley if he could help with the investigation being conducted into his, “consulting clients.” It is also believed another case may involve the Department of Finance.

If Stabler, Wiggins or Bentley ordered these cases, could this be obstruction of justice?

What can we prove?

Wiggins orders cases closed, takes files, and reassigns Wilson.

What do we know?

Bentley ordered Collier to use the NCIC data base and the State’s FETS, to launch an investigation into critics, Donald V. Watkins and Roger Shuler. Collier claims he refused.

What do we think?

If Bentley was targeting private citizens, this could be a serious abuse of power. Did Bentley have others targeted in other ways?

What can we prove?

Bentley ordered Collier to use the NCIC data base and the State’s FETS system. Collier did not comply.

What do we know?

Bentley fired his longtime friend and ALEA Chief, Spencer Collier, without so much as a phone call. Bentley had the New ALEA Chief claim an investigation of possible wrong doing by Collier had been handed over to the Attorney General.

What we think?

This is more of a clumsy cover up inside the Bentley Administration. Bentley most likely ordered Stabler to find something, anything on Collier.

The report on ALEA by the Examiner of Public Accounts is a good indication that Stabler, on Bentley’s orders, cooked the books.

What can we prove?

Bentley firing Collier and Stabler insinuates wrong doing.

There are many more allegations, and most likely other issues that will arise as reporters cover the Bentley/Mason affair.

For now, this looks to be collateral damage from Bentley’s infatuation with a married woman, who happened to be his senior advisor.

No one related to this most troubling saga has been charged with a crime. What we know, what we think and what we can prove may appear scandalous, and there may be a good reason why some are calling for Bentley to resign or be impeached.

For now, alreporter.com will keep searching for what we can prove.

 

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