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Gov. Kay Ivey saves Alabama $90K a year on first day

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4/12/2017 Brian Lyman
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The husband of a consultant whose relationship with now-former Gov. Robert Bentley led to his resignation was dismissed Tuesday from state government.

In her first full day on the job, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey accepted the resignation of Jon Mason, Bentley's director of faith-based services.

Mason's Cabinet-level agency coordinates volunteers and donations for disaster aid and is the liaison for faith- and community-based nonprofits. In the most recent fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Mason was paid $91,000, according to the state Comptroller's Office; he received almost $550,000 in salary and expenses since he first was appointed.

His agency, called ServeAlabama, was established in 2004 during President George W. Bush's administration. Mason, previously a meteorologist at WVUA-TV, Tuscaloosa, Ala., was hired in January 2011 as director after Bentley was inaugurated.

The newly installed governor is “evaluating all staff, and all Cabinet members who will stay, (and) who will go,” said Eileen Jones, Ivey's spokeswoman. “The governor has asked members of the staff to turn in letters of resignation; his was accepted.”

She spent much of her first day in office talking to staff.

“She knows there are going to be many people asking her for stuff right now. She is smart enough to hear both sides before making a decision,” said Retirement Systems of Alabama head David Bronner, who worked with Ivey in the James administration.

No other resignations of Bentley's staff and Cabinet were announced, and Jones did not say whether Mason's role in the scandal played a role in Ivey's decision. Mason did not return a message Tuesday seeking comment.

Bentley's relationship with Mason's wife, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, 45, brought the end of his 50-year marriage in 2015 and ultimately brought down his six-year administration.

Bentley, 74, resigned Monday after being arrested on two campaign-finance charges and becoming the subject of impeachment proceedings. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanors, which resulted in a 30-day suspended jail sentence and 12 months of unsupervised probation, his giving up more than $50,000 to the state and 100 hours of community service. 

He also gave up his right to seek public office again, his ability to appeal the sentence and all retirement benefits.

At the time of Bentley's resignation, Rebekah Mason was not a state employee, but her role as a consultant to Bentley and how she was paid were under state scrutiny.

Rebekah Mason served as press secretary for Bentley's 2010 gubernatorial campaign as well as communications director during part of his first term in office. She resigned from state employment in mid-2013 — she was paid $66,000 in her last full fiscal year in office — to work on Bentley's 2014 re-election campaign, and the governor reportedly became enamored with her then.The Masons traveled with Bentley to President Trump's inauguration in January, about 10 months after former Secretary Spencer Collier of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency first accused Bentley of having an affair with Rebekah Mason, by then the governor's senior political adviser. Bentley and Jon Mason said the ServeAlabama director was meeting with directors of faith-based agencies in other states.

The Masons attended Bentley's State of the State speech in February, the first time in months that Bentley and Rebekah Mason were publicly seen in the same room.

Though Ivey, 72, is Alabama's first GOP woman governor and only its second female governor — Democrat Lurleen Wallace, wife of controversial Gov. George Wallace, was the first — she is no stranger to politics.

She started working for the state as a Democrat under then-Gov. Fob James in early 1980s, serving as first as executive assistant for social services and then as assistant director of the Alabama Development Office. In 1982, she ran for state auditor as a Democrat but was defeated.

In 2002, she ran as a Republican for state treasurer and was elected. She served two terms before running for governor in 2010 and then switching to the lieutenant governor's race.

Ivey is the country's fifth female governor now serving — joining Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island and Kate Brown of Oregon. Martinez and Fallin are Republicans; Raimondo and Brown are Democrats.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Brian Lyman on Twitter: @lyman_brian

 

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