By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama has some issues in the State General Fund (SGF) including: the most overcrowded prison system in the country; owing over $650 million to the Alabama Trust Fund for raids to prop up the State General Fund; not enough State Troopers to enforce traffic laws; having to cut 32 rural drivers’ license offices for lack of fund; shuttering four State parks; an underperforming state retirement system that is costing taxpayers almost a $billion a year to backstop; national guard armories closing for lack of maintenance dollars; and a State Medicaid crisis that could see services could be cut for Alabama’s poorest citizens. None of these problems however are bad enough to prevent Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) from appropriating $1.8 million from the BP oil spill settlement to rebuilt the Governor’s beach mansion.
The $1.8 million renovation to the mansion, that was effectively destroyed by a Hurricane over a decade ago, has not been without its own problems. For some reason, Gov. Bentley decided that the new State-owned hacienda needed a concrete block wall surrounding the grounds. The contractor on the project never took the time to check on whether this was legal or not. Eventually Baldwin County authorities notified the State that the wall was being built on the road right of way. Blocking the public’s access to the beach also violated code. The Governor’s office promised to take the illegal wall down.
Despite Bentley’s promises state Auditor Jim Zeigler said recently that the, “Illegal wall still blocks public access at Bentley ‘Mansion at the Beach.’”
Zeigler said that, “A brand new sign sends the public elsewhere for beach access. This sign was up Sunday when Zeigler daughter Mary Magdalene Zeigler (17) visited the wall while at the Hangout Festival. Will the Governor defy Baldwin County and keep his illegal wall?”
Zeigler charged that, “Bentley diverted $1.8 million of BP funds to restore the Governor’s Mansion at the Beach after losing his personal home at Gulf Shores in his divorce.”
Bentley is also plotting to build a $110 million luxury hotel and conference center nearby on Gulf State Park with the misappropriated BP oil settlement dollars. That replaces the much more modest, but highly profitable Gulf State Park lodge that was destroyed by a hurricane.
Zeigler has been highly critical of Governor Bentley’s decisions and conduct in this term.
Meanwhile the federal prosecutor John A. Horn has been assigned by the US Department of Justice to investigate Governor Bentley and his alleged mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.