By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Former “Top Cop” Spencer Collier is suing Governor Robert Bentley, Stan Stabler (Collier’s replacement), and others in a civil lawsuit.
Bentley and Stabler are being represented by John Neiman from the Birmingham-based law firm, Maynard Cooper & Gale.
The pair are being sued personally, and not in their official capacity as Governor or ALEA Chief. So, why are taxpayers on the hook to pay Bentley and Stabler’s high-dollar defense attorney?
Bentley’s office confirmed an emergency contract for Neiman was submitted, and that indeed taxpayer dollars will be used to defend these two men.
Collier is suing Bentley for wrongful termination and for defamation of character as it relates to statements Bentley made to al.com’s Chuck Dean and others. He is also suing Stabler, and others, for defamation of character related to accusations of misusing State funds, made in other news reports.
Neiman served as Solicitor General under Attorney General Luther Strange for three years, leaving in 2014 to reenter private practice. According to the firm’s website, Neiman is a shareholder and “lead counsel in trial-level litigation, involving water disputes between multiple states and the federal government.” The “water war,” as it is often referred to, is a big case with lots of billable hours for Maynard Cooper & Gale. The water dispute is a decades-old lawsuit over a water-use conflict between the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin.
Before 2015, Alabama’s lead counsel in the water wars was, Matt Lempke, from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP., former Gov. Bob Riley’s favorite law firm. But shortly after leaving the Attorney General’s Office, Neiman became lead for the State.
Prior to Bentley taking office in 2011, Maynard Cooper & Gale earned $1.6 million from 2008 to 2010, for work it preformed for the State. During Bentley’s tenure, Maynard Cooper & Gale has received almost $3.7 million with over $500,000 in first seven months of fiscal year 2016. Over $130,000 was paid directly to Maynard Cooper & Gale from Bentley’s office. Open Alabama list the funding agency as the General Fund.
There is also an additional payment of $24,735,275.57 in August 2014, related to State docks, according to Open Alabama Checkbook.
Also named in Collier’s civil suit, are Bentley’s former senior advisor, and alleged paramour, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who is represented by Bobby Segall and Ashley Penhale of Copeland, Franco, Screws & Gill
Collier is also suing Bentley’s 501(4) ACEgov; his campaign committee, Bentley for Governor Inc.; and Mason’s RCM Communications.
Attorney Joe Espy, on Monday, filed a motion for Bentley for Governor Inc., asking the court to dismiss complaints against the campaign or, in the alternative, order a more definite statement be provided by Collier.
Former top advisors and staff for the Bentley Administration are cooperating with a US Attorney’s investigation, which they believe is targeting Bentley, Mason, Stabler and others.
Update: In an email addressing our report James K. Lyons, Director and CEO of Alabama’s Port Authority, wrote, “Just to clarify, the $25 million payment to Maynard/Cooper by the Port Authority was a payment into their trust account for the purchase of property by the Port from Walter Energy (Blue Creek Coal Sales). Maynard was working for Walter Energy in this transaction and the funds would have gone to Walter energy.”