UPDATE: AL gov responds, denies sexual affair with top aide - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

UPDATE: AL gov responds, denies sexual affair with top aide

Governor Bentley with Rebekah Mason. (Source: WBRC) Governor Bentley with Rebekah Mason. (Source: WBRC)
Spencer Collier. (Source: WSFA) Spencer Collier. (Source: WSFA)
Governor Bentley during his press conference on Wednesday. (Source: WSFA) Governor Bentley during his press conference on Wednesday. (Source: WSFA)
Governor Robert Bentley with Rebekah Mason. (Source: WBRC) Governor Robert Bentley with Rebekah Mason. (Source: WBRC)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WTVM) - A day after he was fired as the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary, Spencer Collier held a news conference and accused Gov. Robert Bentley of carrying on an extra-marital affair with a staff member.

In response, Governor Bentley, 73, issued a steadfast denial of Collier's claims - saying he did not have an intimate romantic relationship with his top political advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. 

Collier said he has heard audio tapes and seen text messages that provided evidence Bentley was inappropriately involved with Mason.

"Everything I am about to tell you, I am willing to say under oath, I am willing to say in front of a grand jury with my hand on a Bible," Collier began, "and I challenge to others to do the same."

Collier, flanked by his wife, Melissa and his attorney, said that he first became aware of the affair in August 2014 in text messages seen by Sgt. Stan Stabler, Governor Bentley's body guard at the time at the BCA Conference in Point Clear, AL. Chief Wendell Ray Lewis, Stabler's direct boss, then played for Collier a recording of Bentley and a woman having a conversation that was sexual in nature. The video was given to Lewis by a Bentley family member. 

[LISTEN: Snippet of audio recording referenced by Gov. Bentley published]

Collier said that Mason had a "tremendous" amount of influence on  the governor's office, especially the governor himself, state agencies and legislation. Collier claimed that Mason was "the de facto governor," and anyone who went against Mason's wishes would be fired. 

From August of 2014 until the present, it has become apparent to me that Rebekah Mason has wielded the level of influence over both the governor and state governor that I have never seen in all my years of public service and that includes serving almost nine years in the state legislature. I have received complaints about her actions from law enforcement, government officials, other cabinet members and members of the Bentley family. At the end of 2014, Gov. Bentley made it clear to me in no uncertain terms that anyone who questioned Rebekah's influence would be fired. - Spencer Collier, 3/23/16

Collier said he told Bentley that he was committing a felony if Bentley was using state funds to carry on a romantic and sexual relationship with Mason. Bentley refuted misusing state funds during the alleged extramarital affair at that time. 

In one conversation, Bentley was heard saying to a woman, "if we're going to do what we did yesterday, we need to lock the door."

Bentley "hung his head" when confronted with the accusations of the affair; he said he needed a way out of the relationship and asked Collier for advice. Even after Bentley said he would end the relationship, he said that he was unable to, according to Collier. 

Collier said the relationship between he and Bentley, who he said he considered a close friend and father figure, soured when Collier signed an affidavit for the Attorney General's Office- something the governor asked him not to do.

"I love you like a father, but I won't lie to a grand jury for you," Collier said. 

Collier said just a month ago, Bentley said he was still in love with Mason, but was "a man of honor and wouldn't ask her to divorce her husband."

Collier was named as the first ALEA Secretary in 2013; prior to that, Collier served as Governor Bentley's Secretary of Homeland Security. He said he found out about his firing on social media and the reasons why he was fired. Collier denied misappropriating funds and said he was hurt by the accusations. 

After placing him on medical leave to recover from back surgery, Bentley fired Collier after acting ALEA Secretary Stan Stabler "identified several areas of concern in the operations, policies and procedures at ALEA."

"After an internal review, the ALEA Integrity Unit found a number of issues, including possible misuse of state funds," Bentley said in a statement on Tuesday. "I am disappointed to learn these facts, and today, I relieved Spencer Collier of his duties as ALEA Secretary.”

The former top police officer in Alabama said his only crime was that he did not lie for Bentley. 

Collier directly apologized to the public, specifically to Dianne Bentley for hiding the truth. The governor and his wife divorced after 50 years of marriage in 2015, citing "irretrievable breakdown" and a “complete incompatibility of temperament." You can see the settlement from their divorce here

In a statement on Wednesday, Governor Bentley flatly denied the accusations made by Collier, including having a sexual or physical affair with Mason. Bentley also denied improper use of state funds. 

"Two years ago I made a mistake. I have rectified that mistake and we have moved on," Bentley said. 

He apologized to his family and to the state of Alabama for a mistake he's made, but what Collier said "is just not accurate and it's just not true." When asked by a reporter, he did not deny that he "loved" Mason. 

He would not clarify if "the mistake" led to his divorce. As he stepped away from the podium, Bentley was asked by a reporter if he would step down. 

"No," Bentley said. 

The woman at the center of it all, Rebekah Mason, has also released a statement, saying: 

There is no way that man would have said what he did today about another man. He only said what he said about my professional abilities because I am a Woman. His comments were clear, demonstrated by gender bias. Since 2010, I have proudly served as Governor Robert Bentley’s Campaign Press Secretary, Communications Director, Advisor, Campaign Communications Director and now Senior Political Advisor. It is an honor to serve our Governor and the people of this state. As a wife and working mother, I commute four hours a day to serve on a team alongside some of the most dedicated and talented people in the state, who are committed to helping our people. Unfortunately, there are still some people who are set on hindering the ability of women to work in the political arena. I am proud of what I have accomplished in my professional career. And I’m grateful for the opportunity God has given me to serve our state.

Mason, a former reporter who has been involved in politics for the last several years, is the mother of three and has been married to Jon Mason since 1996. Mason also works for the Bentley administration as the director of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, a post he's held since 2011. 

RELATED: Bentley terminates ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier

RELATED: Former Congressman: Bentley should step down

Copyright 2016 WTVM. All rights reserved. 

  • YOUR TURN ON 9

  • Both sides have spoken - who do you believe in the fallout of the former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Spencer Collier
    70%
    380 votes
    Robert Bentley
    8%
    44 votes
    Neither
    22%
    117 votes
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