MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Governor Robert Bentley’s former security chief is suing his former boss after being forced to retire in 2015.
Former security chief Wendall Ray Lewis filed a lawsuit against the governor, his former top-aide Rebekah Mason, her company RCM Communications and ACEGov for unlawful termination, claiming he was forced to retire, as well as invasion of privacy, interference with business.
In the suit, Lewis claims Bentley had a physical and sexual affair with Mason, and told Lewis about it, as well as including David Byrne, the Governor’s Legal Advisor; Seth Hammett, the Governor’s Chief of Staff; and Bill O’Connor, former head of the Business Council of Alabama. The suit alleges they all “went separately to the Governor and pleaded with him that he needed to end the affair with Mrs. Mason. None of them succeeded.”
The lawsuit describes an occasion where Bentley’s sons, Paul and Matthew, went to visit with Mrs. Mason’s parents to “plead with them to get Rebekah to end the affair.” Their effort didn’t work. Lewis’ lawsuit claims that Bentley was “furious” when he found out.
According to footnotes in the suit, Bentley reportedly told Lewis he loved his wife Dianne, but he loved Rebekah more.
In a widely reported incident in February 2014, Governor Bentley allegedly got into an argument with his now-ex-wife about Mrs. Mason. He reportedly stormed out of their home in Tuscaloosa, leaving his wallet behind. Lewis claims in his lawsuit that Mrs. Bentley called him and was worried that the Governor might hurt himself. Lewis says that Stan Stabler, new head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, was on that call.
The wallet was flown to the Alabama coast, where the Governor had driven, at state expense. Lewis said he didn’t know about the flight, and would have driven it to the Governor instead.
Lewis claims in his lawsuit that his office at the Capitol was just a few steps away from the Governor’s. He could see anyone coming and going and could keep track of how long they were in his office. Lewis states that there were times when he would see Mrs. Mason “coming out of the Governor’s office, with her hair all messed up, and straightening up her skirt” after long periods of time.
Lewis claims he was forced into early retirement after warning Bentley that mixing his alleged affair and state resources like planes and cars was not advisable. He says Bentley even asked him to break up with Mason for him.
The lawsuit claims, “Lewis put on his most sober face and reached deep for his most serious tone and said, “The Governor sent me up here and he says this has to end. Rebekah, this would embarrass the Governor, his family and everybody involved. This would embarrass you and your family. You can’t be his girlfriend and have him take you around in state cars and planes.” Mason replied, “I know.”
The suit alleges the relationship did not end, and Lewis’ anxiety and fear increased to the point where he told Bentley he would ultimately retire early. He said he retired four or five years before he had planned to, and alleged, “whatever people may say, Rebekah Mason was the Governor of Alabama. People could talk to the Governor, but whatever Rebekah said went.”
Governor Bentley released the following statement:
“Ray Lewis has presented a baseless, malicious, slanderous, salacious and poorly constructed civil complaint against myself and others in a thinly veiled attempt to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from State of Alabama taxpayers, myself and my family.
The outrageous claims are based on worn-out Internet rumors, fake news and street gossip. These bogus claims are an attempt to smear my Administration, to distract from the important matters facing our state, and to attempt to assign wrongdoing where it does not exist.
I have wholeheartedly rejected this attempt and will not allow the people of this state nor my family to be exploited.
Because I have rejected his claim, Mr. Lewis has now unfortunately chosen to publicly file his false scheme disguised as a Civil Suit, which is filled with blatant lies, fictitious accounts, salacious and slanderous accusations, all in an effort to hurt my family and our state.
I am deeply saddened and disappointed in Ray, who served the State of Alabama taxpayers as Chief of the Governor’s Security Detail and whom I trusted with protecting my life and the life of my family.
Even in times when Ray faced criticism, I always publicly defended and supported him.
As many Alabama families sit down to enjoy Thanksgiving with their loved ones, I look forward to doing the same with mine. During this season of gratitude and reconciliation, I am even more deeply disappointed in these further attacks on my family.
I will not allow a shakedown of taxpayers or my family and look forward to vigorously fighting this lawsuit. I will continue to protect my family, defend the people of our State, stand up for all the men and women in law enforcement and work hard for all of Alabama.”
Bentley’s lawyer John Neiman released this statement regarding the lawsuit:
Mr. Lewis’ lawsuit is an outrageous abuse of the system. The bulk of his complaint is full of factual allegations the Governor denies, and those allegations ultimately be shown to be irresponsible and false. In addition, those allegations have nothing to do with the actual legal claims asserted by Mr. Lewis. He appears to have included those irrelevant factual allegations in his complaint for the purposes of sensationalizing what is a meritless legal case.
We will ask the Court to quickly dismiss Lewis’s legal claims, which are meritless through and through.
To understand why Lewis’ lawsuit is so outrageous, look to the article that he claims to be the basis for it—a 2014 al.com article where Mr. Lewis says Governor Bentley somehow ruined his reputation. That is a baseless claim by Lewis because Governor Bentley did not say negative things about Lewis in that article. To the contrary, that article says Governor Bentley “praised” Lewis “as having worked to put together the best security detail and Capitol police force the state has ever had.” In that article Governor Bentley said that Lewis “is a man of honor and integrity and I support him one hundred percent.” In that article Governor Bentley called Lewis “the man for the job.” In light of those statements, it is indefensible for Lewis to now seek hundreds of thousands of dollars from the State and Governor Bentley on the theory that Governor Bentley somehow defamed him in that same article.
Lewis’s claim that he was “constructively discharged” by Governor Bentley and lost money as a result of his work for the Governor is equally outrageous. Public records show that when Lewis worked for the state government, he made more than $661,615 over five years, based on the overtime he was paid. But he chose to quit. That was his choice—no one else’s. Public records show that as a result of his decision to quit, Lewis is now getting $87,387.60 per year in State retirement income, for life. But now he is trying to force the State to give him more money, and to go so far as to extract money from the pocket of a governor who has never even taken a salary since he took office.
The Governor’s legal team will tell the Court that Mr. Lewis’s allegations are irresponsible and wrong, and will pursue all appropriate remedies against this abusive lawsuit. We hope to have this lawsuit dismissed soon.