BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The former law enforcement chief who accused Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley of having an affair with an adviser has been questioned by federal investigators about the governor’s administration, the official’s attorney said Wednesday.
Kenny Mendelsohn, who represents former state law enforcement secretary Spencer Collier, would not elaborate on what questions investigators asked.
A person close to the administration who also was questioned told The Associated Press FBI agents asked about the use of state grants and other resources. The person spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution.
The revelations are the latest sign of trouble for Bentley, who has been the subject of an impeachment push since he admitted making inappropriate comments to the former aide, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. He has denied having an affair with her.
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A spokeswoman for the governor declined to comment.
The AP obtained a letter written by an aide to U.S. Attorney George Beck in Montgomery saying Beck has stepped aside from any possible investigation or prosecution involving the governor’s office. The subject line on the letter, dated last week, states: “Re: Grand Jury Investigation.”
However, it is not clear if a grand jury has been empaneled, which could be a sign of a deepening investigation. Beck said Justice Department officials in Washington decided to remove the case from his office, and he is unsure of its status since then.
“The office of general counsel makes those decisions when they think it’s in the best interest of the public that if a U.S. attorney’s office is too close to a situation then it’s best to recuse that U.S. attorney us and the entire office,” he said.
FBI Director James Comey, in Birmingham for an event about civil rights, declined comment on any federal probe involving Bentley.
The impeachment effort began after Collier, the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency fired by Bentley, accused his former boss and friend of having an affair with a staffer and of interfering with law enforcement business.
Bentley acknowledged making inappropriate remarks to Mason but denied the other accusations. However, audio recordings obtained by the AP purportedly captured the governor — before his wife of 50 years divorced him last year — telling a woman he loved her and enjoyed kissing and fondling her.
Collier has since sued Bentley for wrongful termination, accusing Bentley of firing him because the two disagreed over a request to file an affidavit saying investigators found no evidence of misconduct by prosecutors in the ethics case against House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who is now on trial in Lee County.
Collier said he wanted to file the affidavit, but the governor didn’t want him to. Collier said that Bentley asked him to lie to prosecutors, and that he was unwilling to do that.
Bentley asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit earlier this week.
Associated Press writers Kim Chandler in Opelika, Alabama, and Phillip Lucas in Birmingham contributed to this report.