Posted on April 13, 2016, at 6:40 p.m.
by Kala Brumbaugh.
Public relations is all about building relationships and trust with your clients and their key publics. Trust is the main foundation on which most relationships are formed. When someone breaks that trust, relationships suffer or are sometimes destroyed all together. Once trust is lost, it’s hard to regain.
That is exactly what has happened with Gov. Robert Bentley and Alabamians over the last year.
In August 2015, first lady Dianne Bentley filed for divorce after celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary just one month before. There was speculation that the 73-year-old governor was having an affair with his then director of communications, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
The buzz around the divorce was nothing more than a series of rumors and guesswork until an audio recording of an explicit phone conversation between the two was leaked to the media. The recording was from 2014, and was leaked in the middle of March.
Mason has since resigned as Bentley’s senior political adviser and from her work with the Alabama Council for Excellent Government. Bentley publicly apologized for making “inappropriate comments” and denied having a physical affair with Mason. However, former Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier told media sources that Bentley and Mason were involved in an extramarital affair, but the governor vowed to end it in 2014. According to multiple articles, Collier was fired on March 22, 2016, because he refused to cover up the affair.
The problem is not only Gov. Bentley’s affair, but also the lies that surrounded it. As a candidate who ran on a platform of honesty and prominent conservative values, the utter hypocrisy of the situation is enough to be detrimental — not to mention the ethical dilemma of Mason being Bentley’s employee. Mason was paid nearly $500,000 for running Bentley’s 2014 campaign. The governor has betrayed the people of Alabama’s trust, and caused them to question and doubt his leadership.
Bipartisan lawmakers are working to introduce an impeachment against Bentley for this nationally publicized sex scandal. The governor can no longer perform his gubernatorial duties when he is constantly being peppered with questions about his personal life and relationships, and the violation of his values and platform. However, Bentley is determined to fight the impeachment.
He has committed the cardinal sin of PR by lying to his constituents and pretty much threw the ethics handbook out the window.
Let’s not forget about Mason’s role in this situation, though. As a future communications professional, I am deeply disappointed in her moral compass. Women have enough trouble earning respect in the professional world, and we need positive role models, not ones who sleep with their married bosses.