By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Stan Stabler is the next to go amid staff shakeups at the Governor’s Office. Gov. Kay Ivey accepted Stabler’s resignation on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Ivey requested letters of resignation from all of former Gov. Robert Bentley’s staff and appointed cabinet members. So far, she has accepted Stabler’s and Jon Mason’s. A spokesperson for ALEA said Stabler would be retiring after submitting paperwork Wednesday morning.
Stabler, whom Bentley appointed as secretary of ALEA after firing former Secretary Spencer Collier in March 2016, has faced criticism for his role in overseeing an investigation of Collier for misuse of state funds and the release of an unconfirmed report detailing unsubstantiated allegations against Collier.
The report, which was an internal ALEA administrative report, was reviewed by House Special Counsel Jack Sharman in his 130-page bombshell report into Bentley. The report found that Bentley misused State law enforcement and subjected them to tasks meant to protect him from public scrutiny.
The report, in large part, was what led to Bentley’s resignation Monday.
On March 22, 2016, Bentley fired Collier for “possible misuse of State funds.” The allegations originated from the ALEA internal inquiry conducted by then-interim ALEA Secretary Stabler and his team while Collier was on medical leave for back problems in February 2016.
Months before, against an order from the then-Governor, Collier signed a sworn affidavit with the AG’s office about the investigation into House Speaker Mike Hubbard.
Bentley later forced sick leave on Collier because the former secretary cooperated with the Attorney General’s investigation, Collier said. The impeachment investigation conducted by Sharman affirmed Collier’s story.
It also showed that Stabler, who was promoted several times by Bentley throughout his time at ALEA, noticed signs of an affair when he was Bentley’s security detail leader. He would often communicate with Dianne Bentley and her chief of staff, Heather Hannah, about the possible affair. Stabler stayed on the governor’s good side, though.
Stabler was later promoted from the chief of the Dignitary Protection Unit to acting secretary of ALEA in February 2016 while Collier was on his sick leave. Around that time is when Bentley and Collier collided over the Hubbard investigation.
“In early 2016, events arising out of the criminal trial of Speaker Hubbard set Governor Bentley and Collier on a collision course,” Sharman’s report said. “Governor Bentley used the internal investigation as a tool to discredit Collier.”
Stabler launched the internal ALEA investigation into Collier after briefing Bentley, the House’s report said. Bentley would often ask for updates on the investigation, an odd occurrence for a governor, and his office would coordinate the release of information with ALEA. They also cited the internal investigation in the press release announcing Collier’s termination.
The report was never completed and was used to fire Collier without being properly vetted, the House’s report found. It was later included in 2,000-page document dump to the House Judiciary Committee in an “11th-hour” response to a document request. In September, Bentley’s office, responding to a media request, sent all of the documents to the Associated Press.
A similar request from APR was declined.
The unsubstantiated report against Collier, which was published by some members of the press, accused him of sexual harassment, but those allegations were later retracted by the same people quoted in the report. They told Collier’s attorney that their quotes had been fabricated or taken out of context.
A Special Grand Jury empaneled by the AG’s office last year refused to return any indictments against Collier after the AGO’s team presented findings from a criminal investigation they conducted into the allegations against him.
A statement from then-Attorney General Luther Strange said there was “no credible basis for the initiation of a criminal inquiry in the first place.”
Bentley’s alleged affair with Rebekah Mason tore him and Collier apart and resulted in Collier’s firing and Stabler’s promotion. Collier has said he once thought of the former Governor as a father figure. But a day after being fired, Collier held a press conference in which he accused Bentley and Mason of having an affair.
Collier is now the police chief of Selma.
After Stabler’s resignation Wednesday, Ivey appointed ALEA Chief of Staff Hal Taylor to the post of acting secretary of ALEA. She plans to conduct a full search for a permanent replacement.
“Hal Taylor is a man of the utmost integrity who I trust during this time of transition to help in my vision of improving Alabama’s image,” stated Ivey said. “I also thank the hundreds of men and women in our state law enforcement ranks who work every day to protect us.”
Taylor previously worked as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the State Bureau of Investigations and began as ALEA Chief of Staff in 2014. Before coming to ALEA, Taylor held numerous positions at the ABC Board.
“Governor Ivey has a significant task to steady the ship of state, and I’m thankful she has entrusted me with the duty of leading our state law enforcement agency,” Taylor said. “Our troopers, SBI investigators, support staff, and others at ALEA are top-notch, and it’s an honor to work with them in this new capacity.”