Warm Southern Breeze

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#BREAKING! Seth Hammett, #ALpolitics @GovernorBentley’s Chief of Staff Resigns

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, October 2, 2015

Seth Hammett was three-time Speaker of House & represented Alabama's 92 District. He is a Democrat, while Bentley is a Republican.

Seth Hammett was three-time Speaker of House & represented Alabama’s 92 District until 2010, when he retired from the Legislature. He is a Democrat, while Bentley is a Republican.

Bentley’s Chief of Staff Resigns

By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on October 2, 2015
Used with permission

Seth Hammett, Governor Robert Bentley’s chief of staff, has resigned his post. The governor announced Hammett’s departure today with the praise and fanfare needed to “mascara” over this surprising defection.

Hammett exited the scene at the governor’s office because he was not comfortable with the growing scandal that has ensnared the governor and senior political advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Hammett was one the staffers Bentley dispatched to get troopers on the security detail to sign confidentiality statements as word of the love affair spread. Lieutenant Wendell Ray Lewis refused to sign one. Hammett was never comfortable with this assignment.

Hammett knows that the Bentley-Mason scheme to defraud state and federal taxpayers, as well as the misuse of donor money by Bentley’s campaign committee and non-profit organization, will be presented to the Justice Department in Washington. He also knows that Bentley and Mason have lawyered up in anticipation of a criminal investigation into wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and racketeering charges. Hammett is leaving this dangerous playing field before he gets swept up in the governor’s cover-up of the misuse of campaign money and public funds.

Mike Echols, CPA, Mike H. Echols is a CPA living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Echols was born on December 22, 1951. He has one daughter Christy ( LeFon ). Echols is married to Amy Echols ( formerly Amy Celeste Holt of Montgomery, Alabama ). Her son is Christopher Gattozzi. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Kentuck Art Association in Northport, Alabama. She is the marketing director at the Tuscaloosa accounting firm JamisonMoneyFarmer PC. Echols studied at the University of Alabama from 1970-1974, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. He belonged to the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. Echols is the owner of Michael H Echols & Associates, PC. (aka Echols, Michael H & Associates P.C. and Echols Coogler and Associate PC CPA) Echols is a member of the Alabama Society of CPAs and the American Institute of CPAs. Echols is also associated with Project Delivery Systems, Llc; Northport Professional Properties, Llc and Victory Ink Company, Inc. Echols belongs to Franklin Resources Group which is a public relations and lobbying firm based in Montgomery, Alabama, that is associated with many state-wide political action funds. Echols is a founding member of Tusco PAC, whose purpose is “to support candidates with a pro-business philosophy.” To support candidates with a pro-business philosophy. – See more at: http://openbama.org/pac/index/778#sthash.cWbsbhOo.dpufHe chaired the T Town PAC II, which was Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s largest source of campaign money in 2010. Echols received the 2003 Advocate of the Year Award from the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce for “his advocacy role on be behalf of his clients, business owners, and the community’s business climate through his counsel, active political involvement on behalf of business issues, consulting and support relationships.” Echols has chaired several statewide PACs, six of which have routinely made contributions in local elections. Alabama Political Reporter’s Beth Clayton reported, “In addition to chairing the T Town PAC II, Echols has been listed as both the chair and treasurer of numerous other PACs: Capital PAC, CMG PAC, GOTV PAC, KAW PAC, Pride PAC, Pride PAC II, T Town PAC, T Town PAC II and Tusco PAC, many of which are dissolved.” Echols was the treasurer for mayoral candidate Sammy Watson in 2005. Commenting in a Tuscaloosa News article by Stephanie Taylor about the Tuscaloosa Firefighters Public Relations Fund having contributed $40,000 to mayoral candidate Walt Maddox and $10,450 to City Council candidates in 2005 Echols said, “I don’t believe you saw any one group of special interests have that much money in a single race. Do people expect anything in return for making contributions? If they don’t, I’m proud of them.” Echols was the chair of Educate Tuscaloosa PAC, as reported by Jamon Smith in The Tuscaloosa News, which supported only non-incumbent school board candidates. The ET PAC’s campaign postcards and website had the same P.O. Box 2663 that was also found on the campaign materials of Lee Garrison, who ran successfully for the chairman of the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education. PACs associated with Echols contributed to incumbents in the 2013 Tuscaloosa municipal elections, including Mayor Walt Maddox and Council Members Bobby Howard, Bob Lundell, William Tinker, Harrison Taylor, Cynthia Almond and former Council Member Lee Garrison. Echols was the primary deal maker in 2012 for the proposed lease agreement between the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Tuscaloosa County Park & Recreation Authority, as Laurie Johns explained it, “involving a parcel of property next to Northridge High School which had come to be designated for use as a ‘public school facility’ without the input of the Board of Education.”

Mike Echols, CPA, lives in Tuscaloosa, AL, and was born December 22, 1951. He has one daughter Christy (LeFon), is married to Amy Echols (nee Amy Celeste Holt of Montgomery, Alabama, whose son is Christopher Gattozzi). Mike studied at the University of Alabama from 1970-1974, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. He owns Michael H Echols & Associates, PC (aka Echols, Michael H & Associates P.C. and Echols Coogler and Associate PC CPA), and belongs to Franklin Resources Group, a public relations and lobbying firm based in Montgomery, Alabama, is associated with many state-wide political action funds. He’s also a founding member of Tusco PAC, which purpose is “to support candidates with a pro-business philosophy.”

Last month, we reported that Mike Echols, the governor’s long-time personal CPA and heavy hitting moneyman for the Robert Bentley Campaign Committee, had split from Bentley. Echols, who handled the financial books and records for both the Bentleys and the Campaign Committee, resigned his post over a disagreement with Bentley about Rebekah, who is also the governor’s mistress and married paramour.

The precise nature of this dispute, which occurred several weeks ago, is not known at this time. What is known, however, is that Bentley wanted Echols to do something questionable with the financial records relating to Rebekah. The governor’s request did not sit well with Echols, a respected Tuscaloosa accountant and well-known PAC organizer. During a heated exchange between the two men, Echols refused the governor’s request and turned over the various checkbooks and financial records in his custody to Bentley. With this handover, the professional relationship between Echols and Bentley ended.

Echols had been Bentley’s personal accountant for many years. He was also the Campaign Committee’s treasurer in 2010 and 2014.

Hammett’s departure from the governor’s inner circle adds to a growing list of top staffers and supporters who have split with Bentley over his illicit love affair with Rebekah and his cover-up of the misuse of state resources and misspending of campaign funds. This list includes prominent officials in Bentley’s Tuscaloosa church who have urged him, albeit without success, to break off the affair. The list also includes a staffer who reported Rebekah’s misuse of state resources and misspending of campaign funds directly to the governor, and was chastised for doing so.

Others on the list of departures include former head of executive security Wendell Ray Lewis, chief legal advisor and consigliere David Byrne (who is hanging around until his successor is hired), a former executive employee at the state capitol who quit because of the Bentley-Mason affair, two of the three board members of the Alabama Council for Excellent Government (whose resignations are forthcoming), and several security officers (who are waiting to bolt from the mess created by this scandal).

More to come.

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