State Auditor Jim Zeigler had harsh words for Gov. Robert Bentley on Monday, saying the administration’s decision to spend commit $1.5 million to fix up the governor’s official residence in Gulf Shores was motivated by Bentley’s recent loss of a personal house there in his recent divorce.
Zeigler called Bentley derelict in his inaction to renovate the “dilipidated” 7,500-square-foot mansion until now.
“The governor now has a personal need for a Gulf place, so only now is he restoring the governor’s mansion at the gulf,” said Zeigler in a prepared statement. “This is another example of poor stewardship of the state’s resources,” Zeigler said Monday. “It took a personal benefit to correct this dereliction.”
Zeigler, who holds a unique ombudsmanlike statewide elected position in Montgomery, pulled no punches in assailing the governor. The two have had cross words more than once in the past over the budget, state parks, and the removal of official portraits of former Govs. George and Lurleen Wallace from the Capitol rotunda.
“Neighboring home owners have been complaining about the deserted governor’s gulf mansion for years,” Zeigler said. “Nothing has been done, and the deterioration continued. The original donor of the property sued to get it back, but lost. Nothing got the governor to rehabilitate this property but losing his own personal Gulf house in the divorce. This is the way things go in the Bentley administration.”
Zeigler also went after Bentley on the timing and manner of the decision to invest in renovations for the stately home on the Fort Morgan Peninsula, saying the lack of transparency in that process mirrored other moves by the administration.
Bentley will “siphon” $1.5 million to $1.8 million from the BP settlement to pay for the Gulf mansion renovation, which started with no announcement to the media or public, according to Zeigler.
“Like too many things, this was done in the darkness of night and only confirmed after it was a done deal,” Zeigler said.
The Gulf Shores renovation project, first announced in November, is slated to be completed by May.
The repair work includes installing a new roof and replacing plumbing, electrical, and heating and air conditioning systems. Weather-battered exterior wood and stucco will be fixed, and much of the interior will be redone.
See below for a photo of the abandoned mansion publicized by Zeigler.