Gov. Robert Bentley personally bought multiple inexpensive, disposable cell phones last year at a Best Buy in Tuscaloosa, according to current and former employees of the electronics store.
The revelation that Bentley purchased disposable “burner” phones comes as he attempts to politically recover from allegations by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier that Bentley had a sexual relationship with former top political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Collier told AL.com last week that while he worked for Bentley, the governor was a text message user and frequently changed cell phones.
But Bentley’s office only provided one short string of less than a dozen text messages between him and Mason in response to an AL.com public records request last year seeking text exchanges from his state cell phone, saying that he did not text often on that phone.
The response did not indicate whether Bentley texted often on any personal phones, and no records of his personal cell phone usage have been released to the public.
But Collier’s assertions about Bentley often changing phones combines with new revelations about him purchasing “burner” cell phones to reveal more information about his phone usage habits.
Two employees – one current and one former – of the Best Buy location in the Midtown Village shopping center in Tuscaloosa told AL.com Thursday that they had each personally sold a single disposable cell phone to Bentley last year.
“[U]p until the scandal came to light, Bentley HIMSELF would by (sic) little burner phones … I witnessed it with my own 2 eyes and even sold him one,” the current Best Buy employee wrote via online message. “I sold to him once, saw him purchase twice.”
The current employee said that on both occasions, Bentley purchased inexpensive AT&T flip phones, “the type you buy minutes for. They cost around 15 bucks.”
The former Best Buy employee corroborated the general thrust of the current employee’s story in a phone conversation Thursday morning.
“I just remember Governor Bentley coming into Best Buy. And he purchased one,” the former employee said. “There was one other man with him. I don’t know if he was security; he wasn’t dressed like security. He may have been an advisor or a friend or something.”
The former employee confirmed that the phone Bentley purchased was an inexpensive AT&T flip phone that retails for about $15. It remains unknown whether Bentley used the phones himself or gave them to others. It also remains unknown whether he or Mason ever used them to text one another.
Bentley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.
Cell phones have been at the center of the scandal currently roiling Montgomery since last week, when AL.com published a recording of Bentley making sexual remarks to a woman. The recording was reportedly made by Bentley’s now-ex-wife, Dianne, on her cell phone.