Former AL state employee sues ex-Gov. Bentley for false accusations

Former AL state employee sues ex-Gov. Bentley for false accusations

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A former Alabama state employee caught in the center of ex-Gov. Robert Bentley's criminal investigation has filed suit against Bentley and other state employees.

Plaintiff James Nolin filed a civil lawsuit outlining eight charges against Bentley, former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Stan Stabler, and ALEA Attorney Michael Robinson.

Nolin was appointed Chief Information Officer with the Alabama Department of Finance, which warehouses information technology for the state. Nolin says the defendants sought retribution after he was tasked with pulling then-Gov Bentley's emails for criminal subpoenas.

"After Nolin produced the emails, the defendants set out to destroy Nolin's reputation and credibility as a potential witness against Bentley and to further cover up Bentley's criminal and unethical conduct related to his affair with Rebekah Mason," the lawsuit alleges.

Due to Nolin's position, he was a voting member of the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center Commission, or the ACJIC which manages the state's criminal record database.

The lawsuit alleges that after Nolin produced Bentley's emails, the defendants falsely accused Nolin of illegally accessing information from the ACJIC, despite him having the authority to do so.

On June 10, 2016, four months after Nolin was appointed to that position, Bentley wrote a letter to the FBI and falsely accused Nolin of illegally accessing information on ACJIC in an attempt to have Nolin investigated, according to the lawsuit. This information was also stated to the press, reportedly by then-ALEA Secretary Stan Stabler, who indicated potential criminal activity may have been committed by a senior manager of the Department of Finance.

The complaint alleges the FBI had recently completed an audit with no findings of criminal activity.

"The Defendants authorized and ALEA orchestrated a raid with several law enforcement vehicles and ALEA agents on the Department of Finance which created the appearance that a serious crime had been committed," the complaint alleges. "ALEA Special Agents also escorted Nolin to a room to interrogate him without probable cause that a crime had been committed further giving the impression to all who witnessed this that Nolin was a criminal."

According to the lawsuit, Bentley personally fired Nolin on June 17, 2016.

An exhibit included in Nolin's lawsuit shows Bentley's successor, Gov. Kay Ivey, wrote Nolin a letter on Oct. 4, 2017, explaining that he was cleared of any alleged wrongdoing.

“Although the FBI audit is not subject to public disclosure, I believe that you are entitled to learn something about its contents given that my predecessor, Governor Robert Bentley, implicated you in criminal activity when requesting it,” the exhibit reads. “Specifically, Governor Bentley informed the news media that he requested the FBI audit because his ALEA secretary had “confirmed” that you had engaged in “potentially criminal” activity in connection with a network security incident….As you may know, since Governor Bentley requested the FBI audit, two separate state-level investigations have discredited the suggestion that you were involved in any criminal activity.”

Ivey's letter goes on extend an apology for public allegations and subsequent termination.

“After careful review of the information described above, I can only conclude that Governor Bentley’s decision to terminate you from your duties was supported and unjustified by the evidence available to the Governor,” the letter further stated. “On behalf of the Governor’s Office and the People of Alabama, I extend a sincere apology for the difficulties you endured throughout this ordeal and as a result of the unwarranted negative publicity.” 

The charges against the defendants include conspiracy, invasion of privacy, defamation, abuse of process, intentional interference with business relation, outrage, and negligence. The lawsuit requests a jury trial.  

Currently, the State of Alabama has been covering the legal fees for Bentley. It's unclear if he will hire personal counsel to litigate this lawsuit.

WSFA 12 News reached out to Gov Ivey's office late Tuesday afternoon for a comment on the lawsuit and to authenticate the letter. We are still waiting for a response.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ivey letter added to report.

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