Executive Betrayal - Robert Bentley's Fleecing of Taxpayers and Donors – Part 2
By Donald V. Watkins
Follow the Money
Rebekah Caldwell Mason, Governor Robert Bentley's mistress and the de facto First Lady of Alabama, is married to Jonathan P. Mason. Jonathan was a weatherman at WVUA, a small local television station in Tuscaloosa. When Bentley took office in January of 2011, however, he made Jonathan the director of Serve Alabama, which is the state agency for the governor's faith-based programs and services.
Serve Alabama functions as the Alabama State Service Commission, granting and administering ten state AmeriCorps programs across Alabama. It is the state's lead agency for Volunteer and Donations Management after disasters. This office serves as a liaison to the state for faith-based and community-based non-profit groups.
Serve Alabama also administered FEMA's Disaster Case Management Program for survivors of the April 2011 storms. It administers the Governor's Emergency Relief Fund. The office administers ReadyAlabama.gov, Alabama's statewide disaster preparedness campaign.
Serve Alabama states that it carries out the goals and objectives of the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Volunteer Service through partnerships, integrity, and a sense of community. Since Jonathan Mason has been its director, the agency has taken on a highly suspect role in the Bentley administration.
As the governor's lover and mistress, Rebekah made sure that Bentley directed a lucrative stream of financial payments to Jonathan. Not only did this money to supplement their household income, but it also helped to ensure that Jonathan would turn a blind eye toward the clandestine love affair between Bentley and Rebekah.
It is reported that Jonathan draws a healthy annual salary in his position as director of Serve Alabama, while also receiving economic benefits for the donations he secures for the various programs under this umbrella organization.
Jonathan Mason has received a total of $393,538 in state pay (from 2011 to date) and has dominion and control over a staff of thirteen employees. Payroll costs and employee benefits for Serve Alabama employees have totaled more than $2.9 million since Jonathan has been director.
From his Serve Alabama empire, this former "weatherman"is now in a command position to hand out millions of dollars annually to religious and service organizations all over the state, with no adequate checks and balance and minimal financial oversight.
The funds that pour into Serve Alabama come from thegeneral fund, education trust fund and several special revenue funds, federal grants, private contributions, inter-fund state and federal programs, and other sources. The Alabama Commission on National and Community Service is authorized to accept funds and in-kind services from other state and federal entities on behalf of Serve Alabama.
Jonathan, who had no executive experience running a large business enterprise or managing a major financial programprior to joining Serve Alabama, decides how this pool of money will be spent and who will benefit from it. In fiscal year 2011-2012, Jonathan spent $9,591,869, followed by$6,576,204 in 2012-2013, $3,036,305 in 2013-2014, and $2,984,971 in 2014-2015 year-to-date. Even though Jonathan joined Bentley's administration in January of 2011, he spent the overwhelming majority of Serve Alabama's $4,589,423 for fiscal year 2010-2011.
Since 2011, Jonathan has awarded more than $20 million in grants and program benefits to a wide range of entities and programs across the state. Most of this money came fromfederal program funds. Federal funds are protected from fraud, misapplication, misappropriation, and other abuses. These funds are subject to federal criminal prosecution if they are misused.
Many of the Serve Alabama awardees have been qualified and deserving recipients. However, some of the Serve Alabama money went to "pass through" entities that were controlled by Bentley and his cronies. This made it possible for these expenditures escape to the normal transparency and oversight governing the expenditure of other public funds. In fact, audits of Serve Alabama bystate examiners only verify that the grant money was disbursed to the recipients. The examiners do not verify how the recipients spent the money. The Commission also has no meaningful oversight role with regard to expenditures by financial recipients.
In reality, Serve Alabama grant and program benefitsmoney has been doled out by Jonathan's office towhichever organizations, entities, and persons Jonathan, Rebekah and Bentley favored. Since Jonathan has been its director, Serve Alabama has evolved into another slush fund that was used to reward Bentley, the Masons, theirfriends, and political cronies. It has become a cesspool of corruption.
More to come on "Follow the Money".
By Donald V.Watkins---
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