By Chip Brownlee
The Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier — who was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing Thursday by a Montgomery County Special Grand Jury — said Friday that he believes Gov. Robert Bentley used ALEA as a “political tool.”
“It is now abundantly clear that the governor and Secretary [Stan] Stabler used substantial State law enforcement resources as a political tool,” according to a press release Friday. “The ALEA investigation was based on conjecture, rumors and false information. As a result, this investigation has called into serious question the integrity of the ALEA Integrity Unit.”
Spencer is disappointed in Stabler and the investigation conducted by the integrity unit, his attorney said.
“This further shows that the investigation was not a bona fide investigation but rather a personal attack on Spencer to to deflect attention away from the governor’s own behavior,” the press release said.
Collier and his attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, said they plan to amend the existing lawsuit against the Governor, his aide Rebekah Mason and Stabler to add additional defendants and new claims.
“Collier stated that he looks forward to the witnesses being questioned under oath and to having his day in court,” the release said.
Yesterday, Attorney General Luther Strange said there was “no credible basis for the initiation of a criminal inquiry in the first place” in a rare press release on the no bill against Collier.
Generally no bill returns from a grand jury are not acknowledged or publicized. However, prosecutors can address the no bills when it is in the public interest or needed to clear up misconceptions.
“In the course of the investigation, no witness provided credible evidence of criminal ‘misuse of State funds,’” Strange said. “No witness provided credible evidence of any other criminal violation on the part of former Secretary Collier.”
In an exclusive phone interview with APR Thursday shortly after the verdict, Collier said he felt a weight had been lifted off his shoulders after the conclusion of this drawn-out investigation, which he said has taken months out of his life.
“I knew all along that I did nothing wrong,” Collier said. “From the beginning, I welcomed an outside investigation. As I’ve read the attorney general’s release, it is pretty clear they dealt in facts — not rumors, not innuendo and not second- and third-person conversations. They dealt in facts.”
On March 22, Bentley fired Collier for “possible misuse of state funds.” The allegations originated from an ALEA internal inquiry conducted by then-acting ALEA Secretary Stabler and his team while Collier was on medical leave for back problems in February.
Stabler was appointed as ALEA Secretary after Collier’s departure.
Bentley forced the sick leave on Collier because the former secretary cooperated with the Attorney General’s ethics investigation into former House Speaker Mike Hubbard by the Special Prosecutions Division.
Against an order from the Governor, Collier signed a sworn affidavit with the AG’s office about the Hubbard investigation. Collier believes the medical leave, his firing and the subsequent attempts by the Governor’s office and ALEA to defame his name were all retribution for cooperating with the Attorney General on Hubbard.
“During the State of the State on Feb. 2, Gov. Bentley praised me and ALEA and said we were the most efficient operation in state government,” Collier said. “Fifteen days later he put me on medical leave. What happened within those 20 days? I’ll tell you: I cooperated with the Attorney General’s investigation, which as a law enforcement officer I had an obligation to do.”
The broad, expansive inquiry into Collier’s actions while he served as the head of the State’s law enforcement agency occurred in his absence. The discredited ALEA report alleged Collier had violated agency policy by purchasing new suits and guns.
“I think they twisted the truth to fit a narrative,” Collier said. “They already had their narrative created.”
The report went on to accuse him of overusing prescription pain killers for back problems, having an illegitimate child, missing too much work and hiring his babysitter with no law enforcement background for a Homeland Security job.
Collier denies all the allegations.
Also hidden in the leaked report — which was part of a 1,600-page voluntary document dump to the House Judiciary Committee investigating Bentley for impeachment — were wild allegations that Collier had sexually assaulted a female employee of the agency.
Those allegations have now been retracted. The alleged victim, whose name has not been released, signed an affidavit to Collier’s attorney confirming that she never made the allegations against Collier.
“She called my family at 12:05, the night before that report came out, upset,” Collier said. “She said there are some things in there that are not true, that she didn’t want us to hate her. It literally took my breath away. It was so preposterous. When I spoke to her, she was adamant she never said it. They tried to get her to say it, with intimidation.”
Another woman, Ashley Cook, also said Thursday that the ALEA report contained quotes attributed to her that she had never said either. Her attorney said they had been falsified or taken out of context.
According to other reliable sources, there are others named in the report who are still on the fence about coming forward about fake allegations and made-up quotes. They fear retaliation from their current boss, Stan Stabler, the Governor or Rebekah Mason, his top aide and alleged mistress.
“Stabler was sent over to find anything to justify terminating me,” Collier said. “I have no doubt that the Governor’s office gave him instructions to go over and find any reason to fire me. … It was completely politically motivated. I think it comes from the Governor, Stabler and Rebekah. I think she’s still involved.”
Bentley, in a statement Thursday night, said he was satisfied with the new direction of ALEA and with Stabler’s new leadership.
“Based on concerns presented to me by a member of the Alabama Senate and information that was given to the then-Acting Secretary of ALEA Stan Stabler, when he assumed his position, I felt a new direction in our State law enforcement agency was needed,” Bentley said. “The information obtained by the ALEA integrity unit was gathered and presented to the Attorney General’s office and a determination has been made.”
Read the whole release: Collier Press Release