- Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley denies an affair with a former staffer and has refused calls to resign.
- Bentley bought disposable cellphones at a Best Buy, according to a new report.
- Public records show fewer than a dozen text messages between the governor’s official state cellphone and the former top aide alleged to have been his lover.
Embattled Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R), who last week denied accusations of a sexual affair with a married staffer, faces new scrutiny over reports he bought disposable “burner” cellphones last year.
Current and former employees of a Best Buy in Tuscaloosa told Al.com that Bentley purchased multiple cheap phones himself.
The revelation fans a scandal sparked by allegations by Spencer Collier, recently ousted as head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Collier told Al.com that the governor — his former boss and close friend — changed his phone often and typically communicated with him via text message.
Bentley, 73, has denied a sexual relationship with his former top political adviser,
Al.com reported that Bentley’s office provided fewer than a dozen text messages between the governor and Mason in response to a public records request seeking texts from his state cell phone, saying he didn’t text often on that phone. The governor’s office didn’t indicate whether Bentley used other phones, according to the news outlet.
Mason resigned Wednesday ”to focus my full attention on my precious children and my husband who I love dearly,” according to a statement released through the governor’s office.
Bentley last week publicly addressed the scandal, hours after Collier held a press conference and gave a detailed timeline of the governor’s relationship with Mason. Bentley apologized for making “inappropriate” comments to Mason and acknowledged he “made a mistake.” But he denied a physical relationship with his staffer, who is decades younger than him.
At the heart of the scandal is a recording believed to have been made by members of Bentley’s family to determine if he was having a romantic relationship. On the recording, published last week, Bentley makes sexually explicit remarks to a woman he calls Rebekah.
Mason’s strong influence over the governor has been criticized by some in the state capitol. Collier said Bentley relied on Mason’s opinion above all others.
“At the end of 2014, Governor Bentley made it clear to me in no uncertain terms that from that point forward, anyone who questioned Rebekah’s influence would be fired,” Collier said last week.
State lawmakers and other government officials have speculated for months about the affair. The rumors were fueled when Diane Bentley filed for divorce in August, citing “an irretrievable breakdown” in their 50-year marriage, according to court records.
Robert Bentley assumed office in 2011 and handily won re-election in 2014. He campaigned on “family values” and an anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage platforms.
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