By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Alabama Political Reporter confirmed late Friday night that an operative inside Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration leaked a false report to Associated Press (AP) reporter Kim Chandler, smearing former law enforcement chief, Spencer Collier.
Chandler has yet to publish the findings in the trumped-up document, but she has received all the material, according to insiders.
The suspicious report stems from an investigation ordered by the Governor within hours of Collier’s firing.
According to former and current Administration insiders, the report Chandler has is part of a larger file given to Jackson Sharman who is serving as Special Counsel on the House impeachment proceedings against Bentley.
The original report, overseen by Collier’s replacement Stan Stabler, even failed to pass muster with Bentley’s legal advisors and was swiftly reworked into what they considered a more plausible narrative.
Reportedly, Collier’s firing was because he disobeyed Bentley’s instruction to lie to the Attorney General’s Office in the felony criminal case of Speaker Mike Hubbard (Hubbard was later found guilty on 12 felony counts of public corruption).
The documents alleging wrongdoing by Collier were given to Chandler in a week when Bentley’s private attorney Joe Espy resigned, and subpoenas were issued for the Governor, his former Special Advisor and alleged love interest Rebekah Caldwell Mason and her husband, Jon.
“The timing on this one is too clever by half,” said a former Bentley advisor. “This has Rebekah’s written all over it. She is the only one dumb enough to think this kind of stunt would work.”
Others believe Mason, who continues to serve as Bentley’s closest confidante and a regular guest at the Governor’s various living quarters, was the force behind Collier’s termination.
A senior staffer who left the administration during the turmoil following Collier’s firing points the finger at Mason for several leaks, including leaks given to former al.com scribe, Chuck Dean. Within minutes of Bentley placing Collier on “medical” leave, Dean allegedly received a tip from Mason which led to a story about Collier being punished for disobeying Bentley’s order not to cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office.
Insider’s in the Administration say the atmosphere is toxic, as the Attorney General’s Special Prosecution Divison closes in on Bentley and his cohorts.
“Leaking to Kim is just another attempt to divert attention away from themselves,” said the former advisor. “If they learned anything from Hubbard it was to blame someone else, and shine the spotlight on them.”
This is not the first time Chandler was hand-picked to unwittingly deliver a false narrative from a politician in trouble.
A court filing in the criminal case of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard revealed Chandler received special access to Hubbard before his indictment on 23 counts of felony public corruption.
Hubbard and his attorneys developed intimate relations with Chandler which eventually led to false reports disclosed in the Hubbard case.
Currently, a Special Grand Jury investigation is being led in Montgomery County by Matt Hart, Chief of the Special Prosecution Divison. Bentley testified before the Grand Jury for approximately two hours in July. The Grand Jury remains impaneled and is expected to reconvene soon.