Attorneys: Approximately $40,000 in tax dollars spent so far to - FOX10 News | WALA

Attorneys: Approximately $40,000 in tax dollars spent so far to defend former Governor Bentley

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Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Spencer Collier, former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (WALA) Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Spencer Collier, former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (WALA)
ALABAMA (WALA) -

FOX10 News Investigates is learning more taxpayer money is being spent to foot former Governor Robert Bentley's legal bills, even now that he's out of office. 

Attorneys say a total of about $40,000 taxpayer dollars have been spent over the last 18 months to defend Bentley in a civil suit launched against him by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier

This month, a Montgomery Circuit Court judge ordered that defamation suit can move forward, ruling against Bentley's requests for the suit to be dismissed.

Now, Bentley's lawyers are appealing the decision to the supreme court.  

"The plan is to ask the Alabama Supreme Court that the entire case against the former Governor needs to be dismissed," said John Neiman, who is representing Bentley in the suit.

Collier filed the suit after Bentley ousted him from office in 2016. 

"I went through months of misery, continuous lies, anything to destroy my character," explained Collier. "Taxpayer money shouldn't be used to defame someone."

In April, Bentley stepped down from office after pleading guilty to two criminal charges following a sex scandal with an adviser.

Despite that, the state of Alabama is legally allowed to continue to foot Bentley's bills for Collier's lawsuit, because all state employees are covered through the state's self insurance fund, known as the General Liability Trust Fund. 

Collier claimed Bentley's attorneys told him they'd like to spend more on Bentley's defense if Collier didn't settle the suit. 

"Their initial offer to me was this, they offered me $75,000 and that if I didn't take it, they vowed to spend every penny in the General Liability (Trust) Fund," said Collier.

However, attorneys for Bentley said they are trying to keep the bills down as much as possible. 

"If we can get the Alabama Supreme Court to uphold that the entire case against the former governor should be dismissed, that will minimize the amount of funds that will have to come out of the General Liability Trust Fund," said Neiman. 

Neiman charges a rate of $195 an hour, which he said is lower than the average market rate. 

Attorneys said the state does have the option to choose to not defend Bentley any longer, which would effectively end the use of tax dollars spent on Bentley. 

But, FOX10 News Investigates is told a move like that would be unusual, and is unlikely to happen. 

FOX10 News Investigates also reached out to Governor Kay Ivey's office and to the state's finance department about the expenses, asking for a total of specifically how much has been spent since the last time we reported this story in August, until now. 

But, so far, neither the governor's office, nor the finance department has responded with an answer. 

FOX10 News Investigates will let you know when a response comes back. 

All content © 2017, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved.

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