Taxpayers footing former Gov. Bentley's legal bills months after - FOX10 News | WALA

Taxpayers footing former Gov. Bentley's legal bills months after resignation

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Three days before resigning, Gov. Robert Bentley spoke to reporters on the Capitol steps in Montgomery. (FOX10 News) Three days before resigning, Gov. Robert Bentley spoke to reporters on the Capitol steps in Montgomery. (FOX10 News)

Taxpayer money is being spent to pay for former Gov. Robert Bentley's legal representation in a civil suit brought against him last year, the press secretary for Gov. Kay Ivey confirmed to FOX10 News Investigates. 

"All state employees and officials are provided legal representation by the state's self-insurance fund (the General Liability Trust Fund) in lawsuits based on acts committed within the line and scope of their official position," explained Press Secretary Daniel Sparkman in an email to FOX10 News Investigates.  "That coverage continues even after the employee/official is separated from service as long as it relates to conduct that occurred during state service."

Bentley left office in April, after he pleaded guilty to two criminal charges following a sex scandal with a female adviser. 

The charges were failing to file a campaign contribution report, and using campaign money for personal use. 

Since then, Bentley has continued to deal with a separate court issue - a wrongful termination and defamation suit brought against him by former Alabama Law Enforcement (ALEA) Secretary Spencer Collier. 

Collier was ousted from office in March 2016. In an exclusive interview, Collier told FOX10 News that Bentley directed him to “lie to the [Alabama] Attorney General’s Office” by claiming an investigation was still underway when in fact, it had been closed. 

Collier claimed he refused to obey that directive, leading to his termination by the governor. 

Monday, an attorney representing Collier told FOX10 News Investigates that suit is still ongoing, and it could take several more months before it is resolved. 

Collier's attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, also explained the suit has been brought against Bentley in his individual capacity. 

Regardless, tax dollars stored in the General Liability Trust Fund are paying for Bentley's attorneys to represent him in that suit. FOX10 News Investigates is told that Trust Fund can only be used for civil cases, not criminal matters. Thus, Bentley's criminal proceedings were not paid for through the Fund. 

Mendelsohn said if and when a settlement is determined in the civil suit, the Fund will pay a portion of that to a certain limit, and the rest will have to come out of Bentley's pocket. 

Bentley's attorney, John Neiman, told FOX10 News Investigates he preferred not to give an official comment. 

According to officials in the state's Department of Finance, $3,503.50 has been spent so far on the civil suit, and $1,911 of that was from April through June, after Bentley had left office. 

However, according to state records, in July 2016, the hourly rate Neiman's law firm, Maynard Cooper & Gale, is charging in the suit is $195 per hour, and the cost of the suit is capped off at $100,000. 

If the case ends up going to trial, FOX10 News Investigates is told that cap could be removed to allow for further expenses. 

A spokesperson with the Department of Finance could not disclose a breakdown of the costs incurred for Bentley's representation, citing issues with attorney-client privilege and attorney work-product. 

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