Judge: Collier suit against former Gov. Bentley can continue

Published 8:44 pm Monday, November 13, 2017

A Montgomery County judge ruled last week to deny the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Selma Police Chief Spencer Collier against former Gov. Robert Bentley.

Circuit Judge Greg Griffin ruled Thursday that all but two counts in the civil lawsuit can proceed.

Griffin dismissed count one and count eight, which claimed Bentley wrongfully terminated Collier from his position as secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Seven other counts against Bentley for invasion of privacy, defamation and conspiracy were not dismissed.

“Melissa and I are grateful for today’s ruling and look forward to our day in court,” Collier said in a written statement from his attorney Kenneth Mendelsohn. “We are one step closer to getting justice, not only for us, but for the people of Alabama.”

The lawsuit was filed in April 2016 after Bentley fired Collier, who served as secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, for an alleged “misuse of state funds.”

More than six months later, Collier was cleared of any wrongdoing by a grand jury.

The motion to dismiss the lawsuit claims immunity for then Gov. Bentley. Griffin granted in part and denied in part Bentley’s immunity. Griffin’s ruling states Bentley has “absolute immunity” for the wrongful termination claim, but he was not granted absolute immunity on the other claims.

“Griffin rejected the idea of blanket immunity made during the hearing and, instead, preserved several counts of Collier’s lawsuit including three counts of defamation, three counts of invasion of privacy and one count of conspiracy, Mendelsohn said in a statement.“These counts relate to the actions that Collier claims Bentley, [Rebekah] Mason and the other defendants took to destroy his credibility and ruin his reputation by making false statements about him in the press and by using law enforcement officials to engage in a sham investigation of him.”

The judge also denied motions to dismiss claims against Bentley’s former advisor Rebekah Mason, former ALEA Secretary Stan Stabler and ALEA General Counsel Michael Robinson. The lawsuit is connected to the scandal between Bentley and Mason that eventually led to Bentley’s resignation. After his firing, Collier went public with the affair. The lawsuit alleges Collier lost his job, income and benefits and security clearance among other damages. It also states Collier suffered emotional distress, mental anguish, worry, anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment.

Collier was hired as the police chief for the Selma Police Department in January.