Bentley stands up Zeigler
May 6, 2016
Southern Torch (3920 articles)
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Bentley stands up Zeigler

By Tyler Pruett

tyler@southerntorch.com

MONTGOMERY, Ala.— State Auditor Jim Zeigler sat alone in front of a crowd of reporters last Monday. On April 21, Zeigler officially summoned Gov. Robert Bentley to a public testimony at his office in Montgomery; set for 10 a.m., Monday, May 2. To no one’s surprise, Bentley wasn’t in attendance.

According to Zeigler, the Auditor’s office has the authority to question any official, publicly and under oath, if there are allegations of misuse of taxpayer money. The auditor requested the governor publicly produce a number of documents relating to the use of state property and funds. Some of the documents requested included flight manifest of state aircraft and other travel related documents. The inquest revolves around the ongoing Rebekah Mason scandal.

Montgomery has been embroiled in controversy since allegations were made that Bentley had an inappropriate relationship with his former chief of staff, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. The allegations came from the state’s former top law enforcement official, Spencer Collier, who was fired from his post after also being accused of misusing state funds.

After receiving the summons from Zeigler, the governor’s office quickly released a statement the following day; making clear their intentions for Zeigler to be alone last Monday.

“The appropriate legal process is through the Alabama Ethics Commission where the Auditor has already filed a complaint, and we are fully cooperating in every way. I do not intend to respond further to Mr. Zeigler,” the statement read.

While Zeigler has filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission, further action is being held up by lack of funding in the Auditor’s office. He plans to fund his case through a combination of donations and work donated by lawyers.

Zeigler, known for his public speaking and political theatrics, gave the governor only 10 minutes before declaring him absent, providing a convenient opportunity to address reporters. The auditor spoke for around 40 minutes; vowing to file a writ of mandamus in Montgomery Circuit Court, which would legally require Bentley to appear.

While the hearing on Monday was largely a press spectacle, the ongoing questions about the alleged relationship between the governor and his former chief are proving to be much more than a political spectacle. Monday was intended to create the “Empty Chair” image to portray an unaccountable governor, but as state auditor, Ziegler has several avenues to pursue the matter, not to mention the impeachment efforts from the Statehouse.

Southern Torch

Southern Torch

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