Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley moved his personal belongings out of four state properties last week, and now, required “audits” at all of those locations are being led by Jim Zeigler — the state auditor and one of Bentley’s fiercest critics over the past year.
Facing a mounting case for his impeachment that grew from his alleged affair with a former advisor, Bentley resigned from office April 10 after being arrested and pleading guilty in a Montgomery County Circuit Court to misdemeanor charges of violating campaign finance laws.
On Monday, Zeigler began exit audits of the state properties Bentley has used and inhabited since he was sworn into office in 2011, including multiple properties in the capital city and a beachfront mansion in Gulf Shores.
First on Zeigler’s list is the governor’s mansion on South Perry Street in Montgomery as well as Bentley’s former office in the Capitol. Zeigler said Bentley was responsible for more than 500 items at both locations valued at roughly $1,137,530.
All of those assets will be checked against a database maintained by the state auditor’s office, though Zeigler did make it a point to mention one specifically in his statements to the press … “Wanda’s desk”That desk, used by Bentley’s executive assistant Wanda Kelly, played a notable role in the developing scandal last year after Bentley mentioned it in one of the now-notorious recorded conversations with Rebekah Mason — his alleged mistress — captured by his ex-wife, Diane Bentley.
“The desk was moved, apparently because it was too near the door to Bentley’s private office, and Bentley feared Wanda could hear goings-on behind closed doors,” Zeigler said in a press statement, vowing to locate and provide an update on the state’s most infamous office asset.
Also on the list to be reviewed is another Montgomery mansion donated by the estate of former Postmaster General and Alabama native Wynton “Red” Blount. Zeigler said “the Blount Mansion” has never been inventoried, but his office has been in the process of constructing a database of the state assets dispatched there.Finally, the team will audit the assets and property at the newly-renovated beach mansion in Gulf Shores, which contains roughly 98 state assets valued at $101,259.80.
Bentley drew national criticism to that particular property in 2016 when he announced that money the state received from the BP oil spill would be used to pay for a $1.8 million renovation of the oceanfront property in South Baldwin County.
Despite being vocally outspoken about Bentley’s misuse of state and campaign funds over the past year, Zeigler said his office is required by law to perform these type of audits during any change of administration.
He said his office would be turning over the information collected to Gov. Kay Ivey’s office and releasing it to the public once the audits are completed and reviewed.