Inside the Statehouse

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By Steve Flowers

Well our good ole Dr. Governor, Robert Bentley, is headed to the same fate as Guy Hunt and Don Siegelman.  Folks, we are building a legacy that may put us in a league with good old Louisiana when it comes to corruption and debauchery.
Bentley’s story is sad.  I still really believe he is a good guy at heart.  He had a tremendous legacy etched for his life if only he hadn’t run for governor.  He had established one of if not the largest and premier Dermatology practices in the state in Tuscaloosa.  He had been brought up in modest means in rural Shelby County.  He was a brilliant student in High School, in undergraduate school at the University of Alabama, and then on to medical school at UAB.  He met his wife, Dianne, while in medical school.  He was truly a Horatio Alger story.  If only he had retired and gone to the beach.
Many of us had pointed to April 5 as a day of reckoning for the governor.  His reputation had been dreadfully tarnished by his affair.  Ole Bentley just doesn’t look the part of a philandering playboy.  His plain, grandfatherly look was the reason folks liked him.  His simple country look and gait gave the appearance of a trusted family man and Baptist deacon.  It was his calling card so to speak.  Folks felt betrayed by their old country doctor.
Poor ole Bentley wore a white hat and rode a white horse and there’s an old saying that if you ride a white horse you better not get mud on it.

The old guy totally fell in love like a little schoolboy.  He allowed Mrs. Mason to take control of his life and the reins of the governor’s office.  She has essentially been the governor.  She played the old fool like a fiddle.  There’s no fool like an old fool.
Late Wednesday night after the Ethics Commission opinion came down; I did an interview with a national news network.  They had not heard of nor did they know the lurid details of our Dr. Governor’s saga.  When I shared it with them and they heard the story of a 74-year-old simple man falling in love with a 44-year-old married woman who gave her husband a vague position making $90,000 a year and that she cajoled and coerced our poor ole governor into transgressing the Ethics Laws to sustain and perpetuate their adulterous relationship, they thought this was as colorful as a soap opera.  It is definitely fodder for another book.
My last book, “Goats and Governors,” highlights the exploits of ole “Big” Jim Folsom.  Bentley may make for a new book.
The April 5 Ethics Commission ruling that found that there was a reasonable cause that the governor violated the Ethics Law is the coupe de gras to the Bentley/Mason regime.
This Ethics panel is stellar and well versed in the law.  You have two of the four voting members who are distinguished retired Circuit Judges, Charles Price and Jerry Fielding.  Another prominent attorney, Butch Ellis, appropriately recused himself because he and Bentley are related by marriage.  The vote indicted the governor on four counts with overwhelming votes.  They concluded that the governor had broken the law.  By the way, Bentley appointed three out of four of the members of the Ethics Panel.
Their recommendation that Bentley be prosecuted puts the wolves at Bentley’s door.  He can’t overcome this blow.
The best thing for Bentley to do is to make a deal with the prosecution.  It would be best for Bentley and the people of Alabama if the prosecutors would simply allow Bentley to resign and avoid a costly trial and removal from office.  Alabama doesn’t need any more of this mess.  Mrs. Mason should show some semblance of decency and allow ole Bentley to leave office with some dignity.
Ole Bentley is nothing more than a clown.  Nobody in Alabama takes him seriously and this latest chapter has made him a National cartoon character.
He really should parlay this story into a Soap Opera or even a movie.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist.  His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers.  He served 16 years in the state legislature.  Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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