By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Former members of Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration say the Governor is obsessed with his authority as Chief Magistrate. Bentley has been accused of ordering law enforcement agents to target critics, especially those who have exposed his relationship with former senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason. And now, it is believed, that there is at least one instance of a former associate’s medical records being violated, in order to launch a whisper campaign against that individual.
There is suspicion that Bentley, who still holds an active medical license, may have accessed or ordered others to search the State’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database to find information that could be used against Spencer Collier, former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).
Several former associates close to Bentley are fearful that he is accessing their most private information, in an effort to destroy their lives and reputations as well.
In late March, this publication found that according to high-ranking officers and staff, Bentley pressured law enforcement officers to use federal and state resources to target those critical of his relationship with Mason.
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.
(All of these individuals 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.
Is the same being done with the controlled substance database?
According to Alabama code Section 20-2-214-3: “A licensed physician approved by the department who has authority to prescribe, dispense, or administer controlled substances may designate up to two employees who may access the [PDMP] database on the physician’s behalf.”
When asked if he thought Bentley or his surrogates had accessed his medical records, Collier declined to give a direct answer saying only, “It is a matter best left to law enforcement.”
Speaking on background, a Birmingham physician said any doctor could easily enter the database to determine what controlled substance medications an individual had been prescribed, but without the person’s consent, it would be a crime.
Under Section 20-2-216: “Any person or entity who intentionally obtains unauthorized access to or who alters or destroys information contained in the controlled substances prescription database shall be guilty of a Class C felony.”
The Alabama Political Reporter has obtained a copy of an email to Collier’s attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, in which Brian Hale, General Counsel Alabama Department of Public Health, dances around a request to know if anyone had accessed the PDMP Database in an unauthorized search of Collier’s records.
Hale writes, “Good afternoon, and please excuse my tardiness in getting back to you. This message relates to your call last week in regards to your and Mr. Collier’s concern that someone may have inappropriately accessed information of Mr. Collier contained in the PDMP database. I confirmed that per the PDMP laws that access to the database is very limited. There is no means by which an individual may request a report of activity pertaining to his/her information.”
In other words, Hale is saying there is no mechanism that allows Collier to know who has searched his files.
An individual close to Collier said his attorney had also reached out to the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners, but was “given the runaround.”
Speaking anonymously for fear of retaliation, Collier’s associate said, “When they hear it may have been Bentley they are scared. No one knows what to do because the Governor is out of control… and they don’t want to be caught in the crossfire.”
Records of who accesses the database and when it has been accessed are permanent. This is also true of NCIC and LETS, both of which Bentley ordered to be used in the past.
Former staffers and high-ranking officials within the Bentley Administration have confirmed they have been interviewed by federal agents in pursuit of Bentley and Mason. At least four former aides have confirmed their continuing cooperation with federal law enforcement.
UPDATE: A day after this report was filed Gov. Bentley communications director Jennifer Ardis denied Bentley had anything to do with accessing Spencer Collier’s records on the State’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. She also says the Governor never ordered anyone to use LETS or NCIC to target critics.