Jim Zeigler: Follow-up questions to Gov. Robert Bentley

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A reporter for WSFA-TV news asked Gov. Robert Bentley a simple, straight-forward question. Bentley’s reply was a Vesuvian eruption.

Newsman Michael Doudna asked if Bentley were going to re-hire Rebekah Mason, former senior policy adviser and alleged girlfriend of Bentley.  That simple question set off Bentley with his tirade about why the reporter was interested in that topic and Bentley’s allegation (incorrect) that the public is not interested in it “as long as I am serving them.”  Who says Bentley is serving the public?

Later, the governor’s press office put out a written statement that Bentley will not be re-hiring Rebekah Mason.

Here are some follow-up questions that I hope the media will ask Bentley.  These are just some of the questions I would have asked him myself if he had shown up at an interrogation I called.

In April, I attempted to use a never-before-used section of Alabama law to summon Gov. Bentley to the State Auditor’s office to answer questions under oath.  I had several series of questions prepared.  He did not show up.  Here is part of what I would have asked him – under oath – if he had shown up:

  • Gov. Bentley, is Mrs. Rebekah Mason still advising you?
  • When is the last time she came to the governor’s office in the state capitol?
  • How many times and when has Mrs. Mason come to the governor’s office since she resigned as your senior policy adviser?  What were the topics of each meeting?
  • Is it true Mrs. Mason is using the “Wallace Tunnel” to enter and leave the governor’s office?  (This is the entrance which Gov. George Wallace used as governor when he was confined to a wheelchair, variously called “Wallace entrance” or “Wallace elevator.”)
  • Is it true that Mrs. Mason is communicating with you by phone?  List the number of phone calls between you and Mrs. Mason since her resignation and the topics of each?
  • Is it true that Mrs. Mason is communicating with you by e-mail, text message and other electronic medium?  List the number of communications between you and Mrs. Mason since her resignation and the topics of each.
  • Is it true that you have been meeting with Mrs. Mason at Wynfield, the former Red Blount mansion (now an additional governor’s mansion)?  List the date and time of each such meeting at the Blount mansion and the topics of each.
  • Is it true that Mrs. Mason is advising you on your $800 million prison proposal that almost passed the legislature and that you are preparing to bring back to the legislature?  (Follow-up questions here.)
  • Who are the individuals or businesses that Mrs. Mason knows who could be involved in the contracts for the construction of the four mega-prisons?  (Numerous follow-up questions here.)
  • How much was Mrs. Mason paid by ACEGOV (the dark money organization)? (Follow-up questions here.)
  • Who were the donors to ACEGOV, how much did they contribute, and when? (Follow-up questions here.)

This series of questions to Gov. Bentley is important to the taxpaying public and to the integrity of state government.  While the questions and answers would be a fascinating addition to what is already known about the misconduct of the Bentley administration, there is an important and purely substantive need to know.  Example: We are about to see a second attempt by Bentley to legislate the largest single contract ever by the state of Alabama – an $800 million essentially no-bid contract for four mega-prisons at sites picked out by Bentley and Mason.  Contractors picked out by Bentley and Mason.

With the track record of the Bentley administration, we do not need to trust them with this gigantic contract that would indebt the taxpayers of this state for the next 30 years.

Follow-up questions about the continuing role of Rebekah Mason are not just tabloid fodder.  The answers are vital to the biggest financial issue ever to face Alabama – the $800 million Bentley prison boondoggle.

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Jim Zeigler has been Alabama’s elected State Auditor since January, 2015.  He is a former Public Service Commissioner, attorney for military veterans and senior citizens, and investigative reporter.

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