Alabama Governor Robert Bentley Admits to Inappropriate Comments to Female Staffer

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley admitted to having an inappropriate conversation with a woman aide, but says he didn't carry on a physical affair with her. Lyle W. Ratliff/Reuters

Alabama seems to have a classic hate triangle unfolding in its capital.

On Tuesday, Governor Robert Bentley fired his one-time close friend Sean Collier from his job as chief of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency after an internal investigation revealed the possible misuse of funds by Collier's agency. Then, in a seeming retaliation, Collier released a recording of Bentley making inappropriate comments to a woman who worked for him, senior political adviser Rebekah Mason. Bentley has now admitted to his behavior and apologized for it, but insists he did not carry on a physical affair with Mason.

Less than 24 hours after losing his job, Collier released an audio recording of one side of a phone conversation between Bentley, 73, and a person believed to be Mason, which Collier claims was recorded by members of Bentley's family. In the recording, Bentley can be heard talking about putting his hands on Mason's breasts.

At a press conference Wednesday, Bentley apologized for the comments, but insisted that he did not engage in a "physical affair" with Mason.

"I made a mistake. Two years ago I made a mistake," Bentley said, according to The Charlotte Observer. "Today I want to apologize to the people of the state of Alabama and once again, I want to apologize to my family. I am truly sorry and I accept full responsibility."

Bentley's wife of 50 years, Diane, filed for divorce in August. Mason is married, according to her Facebook profile.

But Collier said that Bentley had told him that he and Mason were in a relationship. Collier said he advised Bentley that the use of state funds to cover up such a relationship was a crime. Collier also accused the governor of allowing Mason to wield undue influence over his administration.

"You can't get to the governor unless she clears it," one legislator who asked to remain anonymous told AL.com. "Some people resent that."

"Governor Bentley was elected by the people. Rebekah Mason was not elected by anyone. The level of power she is operating at, makes her a de-facto governor,” Collier told reporters.

In a statement, Mason shot back, accusing Collier of sexism. According to The Observer, Mason said Collier "would have not made that comment a man in a position of influence within the executive branch."