It's been called a sex scandal ever since recordings surfaced in March of Bentley uttering sexually suggestive remarks, leading to calls for the governor's impeachment
If only it were that simple.
The controversy began when first lady Dianne Bentley, the governor's wife of 50 years, filed for divorce in September.
The action dredged up rumors
that Bentley was having an affair with his former spokeswoman and senior political adviser, Rebekah Mason, who resigned March 30. Rumors of the affair led Rep. Allen Farley to request an investigation
into whether Bentley used state funds to cover up actions that led to the divorce.
Spencer Collier, former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, announced on March 22 that he knew about text messages and audio recordings "of a sexual nature" between Bentley and Mason. The governor did not deny the authenticity of the recording and said he has apologized to his family and Mason.
The two denied having a physical affair, and Bentley has apologized and maintains he did nothing illegal.
Collier dropped the bombshell in a news conference hours after the governor's office announced his immediate termination
As Bentley tells it, Collier was fired in March after an internal investigation of ALEA uncovered possible wrongdoing and misuse of state funds. Before his termination, Collier was placed on medical leave in February after disobeying Bentley's orders to not give statements to the attorney general in the public corruption case against House Speaker Mike Hubbard, according to Bentley's version of events.
But Collier claims in Tuesday's lawsuit that he was legally obligated to cooperate with the attorney general in the Hubbard case just as he is obligated to cooperate with all ongoing criminal cases. He alleges he was wrongly terminated because he knew about the affair and was publicly maligned in an attempt to undermine his credibility.
Bentley and Mason "were motivated to hurt Collier and his credibility because they knew he would not lie to the Attorney General's Office and they feared he would reveal information showing Bentley and Mason had committed crimes," the lawsuit alleges.
Collier says in the lawsuit that he told Bentley "it would be a crime if he used state resources or campaign funds to facilitate a relationship with Mason." Bentley denied using state resources or campaign funds to facilitate the relationship and later told Collier that if anyone questioned Mason's influence, they would be fired, according to the lawsuit.
The governor's office defended the decision to terminate Collier.
"Mr. Collier was terminated of his duties at ALEA for cause. Once the facts and circumstances become public, I am confident that the justification for terminating him will be shown. We will aggressively defend this lawsuit," Bentley said in a statement.