Former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier in August asked a Montgomery Circuit Court to compel disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley to disclose his personal knowledge about donations made to the non-profit, ACEGOV.
Bentley’s state-funded legal team replied to Collier’s motion saying it is part of a, “new, unfounded conspiracy theory,” in its Friday filing asking to court to deny Collier’s request.
Known in political circles as the ‘Girlfriend Fund,” because it paid money to Bentley’s alleged girlfriend, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, ACEGOV is a 501(c)(4) set-up in Feb. 2015, by Bentley’s then-General Counsel Cooper Shattuck to promote Bentley’s political agenda.
Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration continues to pay tens of thousands in legal fees to protect Bentley in his lawsuit with Collier.
A team of lawyers from Maynard Cooper & Gale, led by Harvard educated attorney, John C. Neiman Jr., represent Bentley with the state footing the ever-growing legal bill.
Neiman, who was part of the legal team that worked to overturn portions of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County V. Holder. Neiman is one of Bentley’s staunch defenders telling those close to the case that he will spend every dollar in the state’s legal fund before he sees Collier receive any payment for his wrongful termination.
It has also been reported that Neiman threatened to ruin Collier personally if he continued his lawsuit against Bentley. This type of hardball defense was not always Ivey’s posture.
Over a year ago, when it became clear that Ivey would replace Bentley as governor, a member of Ivey’s inner-circle approached Collier with a suggested promise of a resolution. However, since taking office, Ivey’s administration has spent hundreds of thousands to defend Bentley.
The administration is not forthcoming with exact figures paid to Birmingham-based Maynard Cooper & Gale for Bentley’s defense, and the money is difficult to track as some of the funds seem to be coded under unusual classifications. According to a former administration official, Ivey’s team ignores or slow-walks “inconvenient” press requests hoping that a reporter will become distracted or move on to another job.
Why Ivey changed her position on a resolution with Collier is unknown, but those close to the lawsuit believe certain individuals and companies that supported ACEGOV don’t want to suffer the humiliating blowback from their names being exposed by Collier’s lawsuit.
Collier was fired from his position at ALEA after he refused to follow Bentley’s order to lie to prosecutors in the Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard criminal case.
Neiman in his most recent filing implies that Bentley’s order for Collier to lie to the prosecution was not improper. “It is undisputed that Collier ignored that [Bentley’s] request and thereby injected the Governor’s office into the Attorney General’s prosecution of the Speaker of the House.”
Neiman also claims, “Collier had conducted an inadequate investigation of the allegations Collier had proposed to discuss in his affidavit.”
Collier’s firing grew out of actions taken by Hubbard’s attorney Lance Bell, who in January 2016, contacted ALEA to arrange for attorney and radio host Baron Coleman to issue a complaint accusing prosecutor Matt Hart of leaking grand jury information. Bell’s actions are recounted in an affidavit by Hal Taylor, current ALEA Secretary.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker III, who presided over Hubbard’s trial, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals have both rejected Neiman’s argument.
Not only does Collier’s lawsuit raise questions about the state’s choice of representation; it also unearths a long suspected question as to why Gov. Ivey would go to such great lengths to protect Bentley.
Collier is asking the court to compel Bentley to identify donors he solicited to fund ACEGOV or those who contributed to the fund of which he has personal knowledge. It is widely suspected that a who’s who of business owners and corporate entities funded the non-profit to curry favor with Mason, who was Bentley’s close advisor.
Suggested payoffs to news outlets and radio talk show hosts for favorable coverage of the Bentley administration is also believed to have been part of ACEGOV’s secret mission.
According to Bentley’s state-funded legal team, “Collier’s motion makes baseless assertions that are not supported by the evidence.”
Perhaps the bigger question being asked in Montgomery is why is the Ivey administration so doggedly defending Bentley instead of putting the matter to rest?