By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—An ethics complaint has been filed against Gov. Robert Bentley’s former senior advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, by State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay), stating she improperly influenced legislative actions.
Morrow says this animosity Mason has shown towards him began 25 years ago when, as a student in his economics class, she was unhappy with the grades she received.
In the complaint, Morrow recounts actions surrounding a local bill that applied only to Franklin County, a bill that Gov. Bentley had publicly and privately said he would sign. When speaking to alreporter.com, Morrow said, “She was pillow-talk lobbying…that’s caused the problem.”
Morrow has accused Mason of lobbying without registering with the Ethics Commission.
Bentley has admitted having an inappropriate sexting and FaceTime affair with Mason, who resigned at the end of March after a firestorm of revelations about the couple came to light.
In his ethics complaint Morrow explains, “Since her arrival in Montgomery as Governor Bentley’s advisor, she has let it be known that she was in my class and was very unhappy with the grade she earned …She spoke very unkindly of me as her college Instructor. She was a student in my class 25 years ago yet harbored harsh feelings towards me personally after all these years.”
In February 2013, Morrow introduced HB116. This would have allowed educators in Franklin County to be armed. This was a response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, which claimed the lives of 20 first-grade children, aged six and seven during the attack at school, along with six adults, including four teachers, the principal, and the school psychologist.
The bill passed both chambers with unanimous approval, and was sent to the Governor to be signed into law. But, in the interim, something happened. Gov. Bentley reneged on his promise, and vetoed the legislation.
Morrow says that after the veto of HB116, he announced a press conference at the State House. “The purpose of the press conference was to make the public aware that the Governor had vetoed my local bill for Franklin County,” said Morrow. “The Governor had violated the principle of local courtesy, a tradition that had been long-standing in the Alabama legislative process. I had no idea what had happened to the integrity of the Robert Bentley, with whom I had served.”
In a January 22, 2013 article by Evan Belanger (Al.com), the Governor said that he would not block proposed legislation that would allow Franklin County to arm educators, but just a month later that all changed.
“A few hours before the scheduled press conference, I received a phone call from a friend. My friend told me that I really needed to “back off or cancel” the scheduled press conference. I was told that if I did not, then funding for an economic development project for Franklin County would be in jeopardy. I reported this immediately to the clerk of the House, Jeff Woodard.” Morrow believes an ethics investigation will lead directly to Mason as the person behind the threat.
“Recent events and statements by several individuals have made it clear that Rebekah Caldwell Mason is an extremely vindictive, manipulative person, and at that time was functioning as the de-facto governor,” Morrow said. “Her romantic ties with the Governor were now controlling his every action. Other advisors, friends, legislators, and family members were now non-existent within his decision making process.”
Morrow said he sent Bentley a letter requesting an explanation for his veto on April 2, 2013.
“He never responded. However, I was told by someone representing the Governor that the Governor’s concerns with my bill would be addressed, if I changed HB116 by placing the Franklin County Sheriff completely in charge of the implementation, and monitoring of the School Security Program.” He believes that was Spencer Collier, who was then Head of Homeland Security, who delivered that message. Morrow said, he made the requested changes and once again the measure passed both chambers unanimously; only for Bentley to veto it a second time.
“The Governor had now vetoed a local bill for Franklin County twice that he publicly said he would not veto,” said Morrow.
Both the House and the Senate eventually voted to override the Governor’s veto, and the measure became law.
“I do understand that she was not required to register with the Ethics Commission as an advisor to the Governor…but what she did to the people of Franklin County was not advising, but very strong lobbying to kill HB116 and then HB404, said Morrow. “Her vindictiveness was controlling her actions, and in her mind, she finally got even with her economics instructor 25 years later.”