By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Republican attorney general candidate Alice Martin last year asked then-Gov. Robert Bentley to appoint her as attorney general while Bentley faced a criminal investigation by her office, but said Friday she played no active role in the probe after seeking the job.
Public records obtained from the attorney general’s office by The Associated Press show Martin, while chief deputy in the attorney general’s office under Luther Strange, sent a Jan. 26, 2017 email to Bentley’s office seeking, “consideration for appointment to the office of attorney general” if the position became available.
“I trust the Governor will consider my qualifications and experience to serve as the first female and 50th Attorney General for the state of Alabama should the seat be vacated,” Martin wrote. In later emails from her state account, she thanked two people for calling, or offering to write, Bentley on her behalf and that she hoped the governor “will give me the nod.”
The emails show that Martin actively sought the appointment. Martin issued a statement saying that she put her name into consideration when it became clear that Bentley would be appointing a new attorney general, because she believed she was the most qualified for the job.
Bentley last year appointed Strange to the U.S. Senate to fill the seat previously held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The move raised some eyebrows since it allowed Bentley to appoint a new state attorney general as he faced an ethics investigation in the fallout of an alleged affair with a staffer.
After interviewing Martin and other candidates Bentley on Feb. 10 appointed Steve Marshall, the longtime district attorney of Marshall County, as attorney general. Martin is challenging Marshall in the GOP primary for attorney general. Marshall recused immediately from any matter involving Bentley and appointed Ellen Brooks, the former district attorney of Montgomery County, to handle the probe.
Asked about the appropriateness of seeking the appointment, Martin said she played no part in the investigation after seeking the post.
“As I have long stated, after it became apparent that the Governor would be making a Senate appointment that would leave the Attorney General position vacant, I asked that my name be considered. I believed then, as I believe now, that I was the most qualified candidate for the position and would best serve Alabama. After seeking consideration, I had no role in the Bentley investigation except to attend a briefing for Marshall and Brooks,” Martin said in a statement.
It is unclear exactly what the status of the investigation was when Martin interviewed with Bentley for the appointment.
Martin wrote in a Feb.16 letter to Brooks after meeting with her said her role had been to provide “legal oversight and administrative support for this investigation since opened.” Martin wrote that she was recusing from further involvement.
Martin later left the office and Marshall named his own chief deputy.
Martin said in a statement that it was clear during her interview with Bentley that he had, “made his choice and that it would not be me. He was more interested in a status quo Attorney General like Steve Marshall rather than someone who will stand up to corrupt public officials.”
Bentley resigned two months later, pleading guilty to misdemeanor campaign finance violations. Brooks announced this spring that the grand jury was closed without additional indictments, but with recommendations to toughen the state ethics law.
Martin has criticized the outcome of the Bentley investigation, saying that Bentley got a “get out of jail free card.”