If only he had re­tired to the beach

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS - 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 reigns 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 bro- ken 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.

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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