Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) is not having a great year. News of a sex scandal broke last month and last year he and his wife of 50 years divorced. Oh, and lawmakers in the state are trying to impeach Bentley.
On Tuesday, reports surfaced that Bentley used taxpayer money in late 2014 to have his wallet delivered to him via a law enforcement helicopter.
Several anonymous sources told Birmingham, Ala.-based political blog Yellowhammer that Bentley was having an argument with his then-wife Dianne Bentley at his home in Tuscaloosa, Ala., concerning an alleged affair with his then-political adviser Rebekah Mason. (Bentley has denied that he and Mason had an inappropriate physical relationship.)
The argument got heated, and he left the home to cool down, hopping in his pickup truck.
He drove to another one of his houses, this one in the beachside town of Gulf Shores, Ala., an almost five-hour drive from Tuscaloosa. Sources told Yellowhammer this was a fairly regular occurrence.
In the heat of the moment, the governor traversed half the state, all the way to the beach without his wallet. He’d left it in the house in Tuscaloosa and decided he needed it immediately, so he contacted the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) — an agency responsible for a state that, according to Esquire, includes the fifth most dangerous city in America — to fetch the wallet for him.
They did so, flying it to the beachside town in an ALEA helicopter. It would be in the air a total of four hours, flying to Gulf Shores and back. According to estimates by AL.com, based on the type of helicopter and current rates, that would translate to a $4,000 private chopper ride.
ALEA confirmed to AL.com that the flight occurred on Dec. 26, 2014.
“In December 2014, I received notification from Governor Bentley that he traveled to his home in Fort Morgan and inadvertently left his wallet in Tuscaloosa,” acting ALEA Secretary Stan Stabler said in a news release Wednesday, AL.com reported. “I contacted my chain of command and ultimately received approval from former Secretary Spencer Collier to utilize ALEA’s aviation unit to pick-up and deliver the wallet to the Governor.”
Bentley didn’t dispute what happened but did claim he didn’t specifically request a helicopter.
“It sounds bad, it looks bad, but I did not authorize that and that was not my request and they just got it to me as quickly as they could, and so that’s what happened,” he said, according to AL.com.
This noted speed proved vital, apparently.
As it turns out, the governor, might have become peckish.
“I had to buy something to eat,” Bentley said.
“You have to have your wallet for security reasons,” he said. “I’m the governor. And I had to have money.”
Bentley is already facing impeachment following a sex scandal in which the 73-year-old man explained to his former adviser Mason how much he enjoyed touching certain parts of her anatomy, comments recorded in leaked audio.
“When I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts,” he can be heard saying. Then, after a pause, he says, “Hey, I love that too. Putting my hands under you.”
Later in the recording, he says, “If we’re gonna do what we did the other day, we’re gonna have to start locking the door.”
In a news conference, Bentley denied having a “physical affair” with Mason, CNN reported last month.
“I am truly sorry, and I accept full responsibility,” Bentley said of the recordings. “Today, I want to apologize to the people of Alabama.”
“It was a period of time in my life that, that I have made inappropriate comments,” he said.
“I love many members of my staff, in fact, all the members of my staff,” Bentley also said, as The Washington Post reported. “Do I love some more than others, absolutely.”
But, while refusing to step down, he still denied having a “physical affair” with Mason.
Finally, he said, “The entire state of Alabama has suffered during this time.”
After a press conferencing in which Alabama lawmakers discussed plans to impeach Bentley, he took to Twitter to call it “political grandstanding.”
The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Alabama legislators are working to set up an investigatory committee to probe the claims against Bentley as part of the impeachment process.