'I'm in Good Health': Alabama Governor Dismisses Stroke Allegations
By Brian Lyman
The former head of Alabama's law enforcement agency said Tuesday that a member of then-Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey's security detail was removed after he told his superiors that Ivey displayed "stroke-like symptoms" during an April 2015 trip to Colorado.
Spencer Collier, who ran the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency from 2013 to 2016, also alleged that the trooper was told Ivey suffered a series of mini-strokes known as transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), and that Ivey's chief of staff, Steve Pelham, told the trooper not to tell anyone, an order he called improper and in violation of ALEA policies.
"You don't ever repeat political conversations," Collier, now the chief of the Selma Police Department, said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. "But it goes from being political conversations to undermining an organization when you give instructions contrary to what the policy provides."
Ivey has said in previous interviews she suffered from altitude sickness during the Colorado trip. The allegations, first reported by Alabama Political Reporter, revive an issue the governor's Republican primary opponents tried to raise in the spring.
Ivey's camp pushed back against the allegations Wednesday. Daniel Sparkman, a spokesman for the governor, denied a cover-up or any need for a cover-up existed, and denied any meeting took place between Collier and the then-lieutenant governor over the matter.
The governor's campaign released a letter from Ivey's doctor saying he examined Ivey after she returned from Colorado and saw no evidence of TIAs in that examination or subsequent ones conducted through early 2016.
"I cannot comment on what condition may have led to her hospitalization in April 2015, but her health since then has remained good with no indication of an increased cardiovascular risk," Dr. Brian Elrod wrote in the letter.
In a statement released by the campaign, Ivey said the letter "confirms what I've said all along, which is that I'm in good health," and blamed her Democratic opponent, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, for the allegations surfacing.
"It's sad that Mayor Maddox's campaign is trying to push this issue three weeks out from election day, but I assume he's desperate since his liberal record is out of touch with Alabama," the statement said.
The Maddox campaign said in a statement they "were shocked to learn that Governor Ivey possibly had a stroke and attempted to cover it up."
"We are examining all the available information and Walt will have more to say very soon," the statement said.
Collier, who said he believed "the public needs to know what went on and what happened," said the activity after the incident was what mattered to him.
"None of this is about her health," Collier said. "I'm not taking issue with her health. My issue is with her response."
Ivey, who turned 74 on Monday, told al.com in 2017 that she got "light-headed" while presiding over a meeting of the Aerospace States Association, and went to the hospital.
"So on Friday night and Saturday and I got out of the hospital on Sunday," she was quoted as saying. "They ran all kinds of tests. And I've never had a stroke, not then, not since."
Collier said Tuesday the trooper assigned to Ivey reported that she had become "incoherent" and transported her to an emergency room. The trooper alleged that Pelham told him "not to tell anyone." According to Collier, that violated ALEA policies, which he said the trooper was following.
"It says that any unusual event, you will immediately notify your supervisor," he said. "He did think the emergency room visit was unusual. Steve Pelham telling him not to tell anyone was unusual."
The trooper's supervisor, Jack Clark, "reminded the trooper he didn't work for Steve Pelham or Lt. Gov. Ivey," Collier said. "She was the protectee, but he worked for ALEA and was bound by its policies."
Attempts to reach Clark Tuesday and Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Collier said he did not speak with Pelham after the incident.
After Ivey returned from the conference, Collier said Ivey summoned him to a private conference room in the law firm of Balch and Bingham -- which "struck me as odd," Collier said -- and gave the order for the trooper's removal. Collier, who said he did not notice any health issues with Ivey at that meeting, said he did so that day.
"She wanted proof he had been reassigned by afternoon," he said. "By noon we had reassigned him."
Collier served as a Republican in the Alabama House of Representatives from 2002 to 2013, when he was appointed to lead ALEA. Gov. Robert Bentley fired him in March of 2016, alleging that an audit of the agency found "a number of issues." A subsequent investigation cleared Collier of any wrongdoing.
Following his termination, Collier alleged that Bentley had pursued an affair with a longtime staffer, triggering a chain of events that led to Bentley pleading guilty to two campaign finance misdemeanors and leaving office. Collier is suing Bentley for unlawful termination.
Ivey's Republican opponents attempted to raise issues about Ivey's health during the primary, and several released their medical records. The governor released a letter from her doctor that said she was in "excellent health" and that Ivey had "no medical issues that would prevent her from fulfilling her obligations as governor."
Collier said his main concern in the incident was the apparent violation of policies.
"ALEA is a paramilitary organization," he said. "It's very clear who can give orders and who can't. Had the trooper followed the suggestions and followed the directive, it would have been a problem. I think it's a credit to the trooper's integrity."
(c)2018 the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.)