In politics, matters of morality shouldn’t be adjudicated in the public sphere unless they are connected to illicit rule breaking or are egregious in nature.
And the same should be true in Alabama as well.
Spencer Collier, the freshly fired chief of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency made some pretty explosive public claims to AL.com this week about Gov. Robert Bentley‘s alleged extramarital affair with a senior political aide named Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
There have been rumors of an affair for over a year but Collier is the most high profile official to speak out about it on the record.
Bentley has always maintained that the rumors are untrue.
Yellowhammer News followed up today with a tawdry report that outlined an audio recording that the conservative news organization was given access to.
From the Yellowhammer report:
“In the recordings, the Governor calls Mrs. Mason “baby” and discusses how much he enjoys standing behind her and touching her breasts. He also references a past encounter and says if they are going to do “that” again, they will need to start locking the door and also consider moving “Wanda’s” desk further away, presumably referencing executive assistant Wanda Kelly, whose Capitol office is just outside of the Governor’s.”
Then Collier held a press conference today where he confirmed that he believed Bentley conducted a long-lasting affair with Mason.
Collier was fired from his post as the top cop in the state yesterday after an internal Alabama Law Enforcement Agency investigation “uncovered possible wrong doing under Collier’s time as its leader,” according to AL.com.
“Spencer Collier and I have served together a long time, dating back to my time in the Alabama House of Representatives,” Bentley said in a statement announcing Collier’s ouster. “I am disappointed to learn these facts, and today I relieve Spencer Collier of his duties as ALEA secretary.”
From 30,000 feet, Collier’s claims do seem to have a few problems.
First off, Collier is an aggrieved former employee.
Also, the man who Collier alleges first discovered evidence of the affair has said that he doesn’t support Collier’s allegations against Bentley.
“The allegation and implication from Mr. Collier is completely false and without merit,” Stan Stabler, the new ALEA head said in a statement obtained by AL.com. “ALEA is focused on the future and my priority remains the same – to carry out the mission of the agency and ensure our law enforcement officers and support staff honorably provide service, protection, and safety for all of our citizens.”
Of course, it could be equally argued that Stabler had a lot to gain by not backing up Collier.
In any event, not much is clear based on the current “evidence” available in the public sphere.
And that is the point.
Yes, it may be interesting, juicy, scandalous even.
But an affair, even one between a governor and his top political aide is not illegal on its face.
And the affair should not be the focus, especially not in 2016.
What does matter is whether Bentley used taxpayer money or state resources to hide his affair.
Collier said in the press conference that he advised Bentley against doing that when he found out about the affair, but he also hasn’t supplied evidence that the governor has broken the law.
Of course, this should be investigated further.
Collier also claims that Mason has an outsized amount of influence and power in the Bentley administration. That is concerning to be sure, but is it illegal?
What also matters is who or what is behind the shady group that pays for Mason’s salary.
The secret 501(c)(4) that pays for Mason’s salary is called the Alabama Council for Excellent Government. Under Alabama law, the group is under no obligation to disclose who donates to it or where most of its money goes to.
That’s the real scandal.
Have a tip about this developing situation? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cover Photo Credit: repmobrooks/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)