By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday April 21, State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) issued an order summoning Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), pursuant to the constitutional and statutory powers of his office, today. Zeigler orders Gov. Bentley to produce documents and appear to be placed under oath on or before May 2, 2016.
Zeigler, who is an attorney, said, “When you read the state constitution and the state code, you’ll find some interesting stuff. Like the power to compel officials to appear, and to put them under oath, which is vested in my office as State Auditor.”
The order lists 11 areas of inquiry for which Gov. Bentley is required to produce documents, including: expenditures and flight and passenger manifests for state aircraft; Governor’s Discretionary Funds; Emergency Funds; Non-Disclosure and Confidentiality Agreements; Serve Alabama’s budget; visitor logs for The Blount Mansion; and any and all telephone records for phones used to communicate with Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Zeigler claims that Alabama Code Section 36-16-1 and 36-16-2 lay out the official powers and duties of the office of State Auditor, including: The Auditor has authority to require information on oath, to be administered by him, from any person touching any claim or account he is required to audit.
Auditor Zeigler said, “I’m just doing the job the citizens of Alabama elected me to do. I am required to audit the expenditures of the state, and I intend to get answers to these questions on behalf of the taxpaying public.”
The surprise move by the State Auditor follows a public hearing on Wednesday on legislation which would have allowed Gov. Bentley to appoint the state Auditor as well as the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries (both currently elected positions). That bill was carried over by the committee, and with just five legislative days left, appears to be effectively dead for this legislative session. Legislation that would have allowed Bentley to appoint the next state school superintendent was withdrawn by the sponsor. The elected state school board currently hires the superintendent.
Recent reporting shows that Gov. Bentley took Mrs. Mason to a Celine Deon concert in Los Vegas and this year as his dinner date to meet all the other Governors and their spouses at the White House with President and Mrs. Barack H. Obama (D). Mrs. Mason was neither separated from her husband, who is still employed by Bentley, nor was she a State employee at the time. Despite a 2014 audiotape which implies that Rebekah and Bentley are lovers, Bentley’s many allies in the legislature maintain that this does not rise to the level of “moral turpitude” as defined by the state constitution and that Bentley can be impeached and removed only if he committed an actual crime.
Zeigler has been very critical of Governor Bentley’s administration since he entered office in 2015.