By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— Former Alabama commissioner of conservation and natural resources, Charley Grimsley, filed suit against Gov. Robert Bentley over his plan to build a resort hotel at Gulf State Park, which Grimsley says will be unaffordable to most Alabamians.
The lawsuit, filed in Montgomery County circuit court, challenges the use of the 2010 BP grant funds for the hotel project. “The 2010 BP funds are not a legal funding source according to the 2011 Gulf State Park Projects Act,” Grimsley said. “Instead of using these funds to restore the environmental damage caused by the oil spill, Gov. Bentley is instead trying to use them to build a luxury hotel working people cannot afford.”
This is not the first time Grimsley has used the legal system in his fight to keep Alabama’s State parks affordable to average Alabamians. “In 2005, I sued Gov. Riley over his illegal plan to give a contract to a handpicked luxury hotel developer without competitive bid. After 4 years in court the plan was ruled illegal, and my hope is that Gov. Bentley’s plan will meet the same fate,” said Grimsley.
Grimsley believes Gov. Bentley’s “dark money” group, the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, is behind Bentley’s State parks policy that he says caters to the rich at the expense of average Alabamians. He cited a recent report in alreporter.com where insiders claim Rebekah Caldwell Mason, the Governor’s embattled former chief advisor, was responsible for the closure of five State parks.
In a meeting with officials concerning closing the five parks, Ms. Mason reportedly said, “Close them. Only poor people use them anyway.”
“This shows the genesis of Gov. Bentley’s shocking State parks philosophy,” Grimsley responded. “A discriminatory State park policy is being promoted by a shadowy group that does not answer to the people of Alabama.”
Grimsley pointed out that Mason was paid by this group, which is headed by Cooper Shattuck, who is also the executive director for Bentley’s hotel resort plan for Gulf State Park.
Though the dark money group’s ACEGov website has recently been removed from the Internet, cached versions of the website encourage people “to support our efforts to make Alabama’s Government more Effective, Efficient and Accountable to the hard working men and women of our State.”
Grimsley says, when it comes to State parks, the organization is doing the exact opposite of its stated purpose of helping working people. “With the influence of this shadowy group, the Bentley doctrine for State parks is to close the parks poor people use, and cater the other ones to the rich.”