Governor admits ‘inappropriate’ remarks to staffer

Published 6:39 pm Wednesday, March 23, 2016

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley admitted Wednesday that he made inappropriate remarks to a top female staffer, but he denied accusations that he had a physical affair.

The admission by the two-term governor, a former Baptist deacon, capped a bizarre political day in which the state’s former top law enforcement official, a day after his firing, launched a series of allegations against his top boss. Among them: That Bentley made sexual remarks to the staffer, had an inappropriate relationship with her and allowed her to wield too much power.

Bentley’s tone during a news conference was conciliatory, though he denied ever having a physical relationship with his longtime aide and current political adviser, saying the mistake was his alone.

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“I made a mistake. Two years ago I made a mistake,” Bentley said, admitting he said “some inappropriate things” to the aide. Bentley said he previously apologized to his family and the family of the aide, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

The governor divorced last year after Dianne Bentley said their 50-year marriage had suffered an irreparable breakdown.

Collier said he heard a tape recording in 2014 in which Bentley made sexual comments to a female he believed to be the staff member.

He also said he believed the governor had an inappropriate relationship with the staffer.

Collier said he listened to the call while members of Bentley’s family were present on the phone and then confronted the governor about them the next day.

“Gov. Robert Bentley simply hung his head and asked for advice on how to get out of it,” Collier said. Collier said Bentley recently told him he was “in love” with Mason.

Collier said the Bentley family was trying to do some sort of “intervention” with the governor with the recording.

Collier also accused Mason of wielding extraordinary influence within the governor’s office.

Mason, in a statement, said Collier would have not made that comment “about another man.” Mason’s statements did not address Bentley’s behavior.

Collier’s accusations came a day after Bentley fired him as law enforcement director after an internal investigation into the possible misuse of state funds within the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

Collier said Wednesday that he had done nothing wrong. The governor had placed Collier on medical leave in February to recover from back surgery.

Bentley on Tuesday announced that acting Secretary Stan Stabler would now fill the permanent job.