Feature: Wednesday, January 23, 2003
You Don’t Know JACK Part 2

By Jeff Prince

Allen dubbed the report a “fantasy” and said he attempted to arrest Lilly for official oppression only after the officer refused to identify himself and told Allen to “go fuck yourself.” Allen called Police Chief Ralph Mendoza. “I told Ralph I had verbally told this guy he was under official oppression arrest and he refused to get out of the car. I wanted Mendoza to tell me to do one of two things — either make entry, forced, drag the guy out and arrest him, or that Mendoza would send somebody, captain or higher, out there to resolve this situation. Mendoza said, ‘Please don’t do anything rash.’”

Eventually, Allen dropped the matter. Neither side filed charges.

Soon after, another constable called a meeting with Mendoza. Seven of the county’s eight constables were invited; Allen was the odd man out. “We wanted to let Mendoza know we’re not all out there doing these crazy things,” said a constable who attended but did not want to be identified in this article.

Allen dubbed it a “cut-Jack-Allen’s-throat meeting” and said the constable who called the meeting is scared because Allen has harmful information about him. “I could sit here and put him in prison. I’m serious, I could put him in prison. But all I’m responsible for is what happens right here,” Allen said, tapping his desktop with his finger.

Mendoza said Fort Worth police officers respect other police agencies, and peace officers have no vendetta against Allen, despite the clashes. “I’ve talked to a lot of the constables; if you talk to them they’ll tell you we’re an easy agency to get along with,” he said. “Typically, the one who doesn’t get along with anyone, including his fellow constables, is Jack Allen.”

Fort Worth police aren’t the only ones scrapping with Allen. Former deputy constable Jim Hurley filed a civil service complaint after being fired in October. A hearing is set for Feb. 10. Hurley charged in his complaint that his termination was payback for accusing Allen of theft.

Allen characterizes Hurley as an inept and volatile racist with a chemical imbalance that makes him lose control of his emotions. In reply, Hurley laughed, saying it is Allen who displays most of those characteristics. Hurley won a Purple Heart and a Medal of Valor during a long career with the Los Angeles Police Department, from which he retired as a homicide detective. On the wall of his Arlington house is an autographed photo of Hurley and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and actor Don Meredith, who relied on Hurley as technical advisor for episodes of Police Story in the mid-1970s.

Hurley began working in Allen’s office in 1997. Their conflict occurred June 22, 2001, when Hurley was in the process of seizing property to be sold at auction to satisfy a judgment. Luxury Car Rental on Forest Park Boulevard had leased a Hummer to a man who crashed it into a Louisiana swamp. Local businessman Darren Rhea, who owned the Hummer and leased it to Luxury, sued for reimbursement. Allen’s office was notified to collect the debt or seize property to be auctioned, with the proceeds going to Rhea.

By then, Luxury had closed its Fort Worth office. The only items that remained on site were a Lexus, a Porsche, some office furniture, and a box with about 40 silk-screened t-shirts. Hurley met with Rhea and Rhea’s attorney, Terry Vernon, and two tow truck drivers. Allen arrived, noticed the box of t-shirts, and put them in his car.

Hurley complained to Allen’s chief deputy, Ronnie Thompson. “I told him he needed to tell Jack to return the shirts or I would have to go to the D.A.’s office,” Hurley said. Hurley confronted Allen, and the men argued. “I told him, ‘You took these shirts’; they have to be there because the defendant on the case was filing to have the writ of execution quashed and his property returned. ... Jack put me on a three-day suspension for insubordination.”

Allen said Hurley was making a fuss over shirts that would have brought little if anything at auction. He said he gave the shirts to homeless people at a night shelter. “I was just passing them out,” he said. “I did not have one; I still to this day don’t have one. I never personally gained from that.”

It makes no difference if Allen gave away the shirts, Hurley said. “Jack Allen isn’t Robin Hood,” he said.

Rhea, meanwhile, was waiting for the seized cars and furniture to be auctioned to settle his $77,000 judgment. Rhea was concerned about the luxury cars being stored outside in the elements and gave Hurley permission to have H&R Wrecker store them indoors.

On Oct. 16, 2001 — three months and three weeks after the seizure — the auction was held. Rhea was furious to learn he was being charged $9,590 in towing and storage fees. He called Hurley and complained. Hurley agreed the fee was “absolutely exorbitant” and asked Allen if it could be reduced. Hurley recalled the answer: “He said, ‘Neither the attorney or Darren Rhea will help me [financially] in any way, so I’m not going to help them out.’”

Rhea confronted Allen. “I told Jack that was absolutely criminal to do that,” he said. “Jack knew I was going to profit from the deal and he wanted a piece of the pie.”

When questioned by the Weekly, Allen said he had no control of H&R’s storage rates. Then he added that Rhea shouldn’t be complaining because, after all, he had made money at the auction.

Rhea said he vented to a friend — one of Allen’s former deputies — and was told that Allen gets donations from H&R for his annual charity golf tournament and Christmas parties. In turn, Rhea was told, Allen uses H&R exclusively for the office’s wrecker pulls.

Ray Hubbard manages J&H Wrecker Service, a primary competitor of H&R. Hubbard said Allen’s office once used a rotation of wrecking companies, including J&H. Those calls stopped about a year ago, which is when J&H stopped donating money to Allen’s charity golf tournament. “He’ll take care of those that take care of him,” Hubbard said.

Allen’s 2001 campaign finance reports show Hubbard donated $100 to the golf tournament. Herman Nieswiadomy, co-owner of H&R, donated $250. In 2002, Hubbard didn’t contribute, while Nieswiadomy’s contribution increased to $500. Former deputies said Allen told his employees a year ago to use only H&R for pulls, no matter how long they had to wait for available tow trucks. Hurley said he once received permission from Chief Deputy Constable Thompson to use Kelly McKnight on a pull in southeast Arlington so he wouldn’t have to wait for H&R to send a truck from west Tarrant County. He was later chastised by Allen for bucking orders.

Allen denied accusations that he gives H&R exclusive tow rights. “Currently I have two — H&R and Quality [Towing],” he said. He insisted he gives no consideration to whether a company contributes to his golf tournament — proven by the fact that Quality Towing contributes nothing, he said.

Three days later, the Weekly looked at Allen’s 2002 tow log, which listed 86 pulls. H&R is credited with 85, Kelly McKnight with one — the pull that got Hurley in trouble. Quality Towing was not listed. Allen’s explanation: His deputies list only H&R because “H&R and Quality Towing are the same company,” he said.

Nieswiadomy makes no bones about the connection between contributions and towing calls. He said he contributes to Allen and other police agencies to keep the calls coming. “Your police pulls are your bread and butter,” he said. H&R contributes several hundred dollars to the Christmas party each year. Allen doesn’t solicit donations, said Nieswiadomy, who recalled how late last year he made a “once-in-a-lifetime” pull that netted his company about $7,000 and afterward told Allen to expect another donation to the Christmas party. Nieswiadomy was referring to Rhea’s property.

Using only one towing company and allowing that company’s officials to help pay for parties doesn’t look good, said County Commissioner Marti VanRavenswaay. “If it were me, I would not be steering business anywhere,” she said. “I would offer somebody the phone book and say, ‘Here’s the phone book.’ I would not want to be accused of steering. I would go to an extreme measure not to have anyone make such a claim.”

Allen said he is not the only constable or police agency that gives exclusive service to a wrecker company. Pct. 5 Constable Sergio Deleon has a similar arrangement. “Our office typically uses Texas Towing,” Deleon said. “If they can’t get out to a situation, we call somebody else.” But there is a difference. “Texas Towing is not a donor or contributor of mine, and we probably wouldn’t even accept anything because we bend over backward to avoid any perception of impropriety. Each law enforcement agency does that differently. Jack’s situation, I don’t know.”

Rhea said Allen has solicited golf tournament donations many times. “I’ve never been around him when he hasn’t asked me for a donation,” he said. “I’ve never done it because I don’t think it’s a public official’s job to panhandle for money.” Rhea believes the wrecker and storage fees were his punishment for failing to contribute.

Allen fired Hurley on Oct. 4, 2002. A termination letter doesn’t mention the shirts but refers to several incidents, including an accusation that Hurley cursed and threatened to kick down a couple’s door on Sept. 11, 2002, after Hurley went to confiscate a grand piano to pay a judgment. The man who lived there wouldn’t allow the piano to be seized and blocked the door so Hurley couldn’t leave. Hurley called for backup. Allen said he arrived and, as he approached the door, “I heard [Hurley] screaming profanities and threats to that couple.”

After he was fired, Hurley carried a tape recorder to the couple’s house and talked to them for what he said was the first time since the incident. Hurley played the tape for the Weekly. Hurley is heard knocking on the door and being greeted warmly by the husband. Hurley explains how he was fired and accused of being rude during the attempted piano seizure. The resident sounds flabbergasted and says he was interviewed by the district attorney’s office and a constable and told both that Hurley was courteous. “I told them both that, and so did my wife,” he says on the tape. “I told them I was the one who was rude and you were not. I said we didn’t have a problem at all, that you were nice.”

Allen and the district attorney’s office later dropped the incident from the termination letter. Allen, unaware that the Weekly had heard the tape, explained why the incident was dropped: “Jim Hurley got to those people,” he said. “They wouldn’t substantiate it, and it was going to be my word against his and so we just dropped it. We’ve dropped that because I’ve got bigger and better complaints.”

The Jack Allen Stump & Divot Golf Tournament comes up often in conversations with Allen, who misses few opportunities to tout his charity work for youngsters. The tournament, in its 10th year, is not set up as a nonprofit endeavor, but Allen said his donors trust him to spend the money helping out youths. His 2002 brochure describes how he founded a Constable’s Scholarship Fund, helped 29 students to attend college, and supported numerous civic organizations. Under the headline “An honest fundraiser for an honest politician!!” Allen’s brochure claims the tournament is “a great way to raise much-needed money for good causes” and “a fun way to help Jack Allen raise the necessary funds to keep him working for us in the future.”

Allen said he keeps separate bank accounts for his campaign contributions and for his golf tournament. When he runs unopposed, he said, he doesn’t solicit campaign contributions, raises money only through his golf tournament, and gives all the proceeds to youngsters and charitable causes. “It’s not campaign money,” he said. “That’s a promise I make to the contributor that supports the golf tournament, is that that money is not campaign money, that money is kid money, youth money. I put my personal money in there, too, because that’s my belief.” Allen ran unopposed in 2000, so, theoretically, all money raised since then would be “kid money.”

Tarrant County keeps two years’ worth of campaign filings. From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2000, Allen raised $16,355 and spent $14,477. Youth groups, a retirement center, and a police widow’s fund received $1,868 in donations. The remaining $12,609 paid for golf tournament expenses, brochures and other printing costs, advertisements, office supplies, office decorations, door prizes, donations to politicians, including J.D. Johnson, subscriptions to newspapers, and Allen’s personal membership dues in various associations. The figure includes a $1,134.59 payment to Lauderdale’s Floating Restaurant to pay the portion of his annual Christmas party that wasn’t already covered by donors such as H&R Wrecking — an amount that Allen claimed he paid out of his own pocket.

In 2001, Allen raised $18,485 and listed $14,827 in expenses. He donated $1,518 to youth groups and charitable causes and spent $13,309 on the golf tournament, advertising “to keep my name out in front of the public,” printing, political donations, employee gifts, promotional items such as Jack Allen nail files and pens, newspaper subscriptions, and personal membership dues to clubs such as North Texas Justice Peace & Constable Association. The figure includes $252.76 worth of barbecue for an employee party and $793.94 to Vance Godby’s Catering Service and Restaurant for his portion of the Christmas party.

The golf tournament is not incorporated as a nonprofit organization, and Allen can legally spend the money on promotional nail files and employee parties. The state election code prevents converting the money to personal use. “It sounds like there is not anything you can point to and say there is a violation,” said Karen Lundquist, Texas Ethics Commission executive director. “Under Texas law there is no fundraising restriction based on whether or not you have an opponent, as long as the money he is spending is related to his candidacy and not for personal use.”

The expenses are dubious nonetheless, said Suzy Woodford, executive director of Common Cause Texas, an Austin-based government watchdog group. “It clearly does not pass the smell test,” she said. “To use children to get people to give money and only use 15 percent of it for children is clearly unethical. It is misrepresentation of the purpose of raising the money. We expect our elected officials to be honest. He needs to make it part of his verbal pitch so there is no question in anybody’s mind about what the money is used for.”

Money not spent in 2001 can be kept in his account for future use. From Jan. 1 to June 30, 2002, Allen raised $50 and spent $4,813. He raises little money early in the year because his golf tournament is held in October. He donated $1,515 to charitable causes, and the remaining $3,298 paid for various expenses, including a $1,000 campaign loan payment to himself and $100 to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards & Education to have his peace officer’s license reinstated.

Allen allowed his state-issued license to lapse in September 2001 after failing to take required training courses. His license was reinstated Feb. 26 after he completed the courses. Justice of the Peace Jacquelyn Wright dismissed 29 tickets written by Allen during that time and refunded the fines.

The lapsed license was not his fault; the state commission failed to send notices that his license was in jeopardy, Allen said, blaming faulty record-keeping by the state. “Jim Dozier admitted it; he’s the [executive] director of TCLEOSE.”

TCLEOSE Division Director Roger Sanchez disputed Allen’s claims. Notices were sent, he said, and even if they weren’t, license renewal is the officer’s responsibility. “He’s been a police officer for 24 years,” he said. “This is nothing new to Jack Allen. He didn’t take two courses required by law — cultural diversity and special investigative topics. Because of that his license expired.”

The 2002 golf brochures also credit Allen with initiating a program to stop illegal dumping, even though he was no longer overseeing the program. Fort Worth officials stopped funding the program in 2001 because they weren’t happy with Allen’s oversight and production. “Jack Allen ran around and was supposed to be identifying sites and citing the owners, and the amount of return on that $100,000 investment we didn’t feel was significant,” said Brian Boerner, city environmental management director.

Allen’s demeanor was calm as he justified his spending of money raised at his golf tournament. But his face turned bright red, and beads of sweat appeared on his bald head. “You got to spend money to make money,” he said. “This is a way to raise money to keep me in office. All of those kids’ parents vote. So one hand washes the other. Why do I give scholarships to kids? Because it’s good publicity for me, and the money helps the kids. You could say that my scholarship checks [for kids] going to college is a campaign expense. If you want to twist it that way, you could do that. And it would be truthful but I wouldn’t expect you to do that.”

Several days earlier, Allen claimed he gave $1,750 in scholarship money in 2002. His campaign filing showed only $250 was given to Tarrant County College. He categorized a couple of other $100 donations as scholarship donations. Still, the total was less than $500. “From one year to the next it fluctuates,” he said. “You can take anything and pick it apart if that’s what you’re trying to do. I’m not trying to hide anything.”

Allen’s actions may finally be catching up with him. He could face a slew of rivals in 2004. Pat Carlson, Tarrant County Republican Party chairwoman, has heard rumblings. “We’ve had people call here at headquarters and ask how do they file and expressed their unhappiness with him,” she said. “It would not surprise me if he would have some other opponents, but I can’t tell you anybody right now who is looking at it.”

Former River Oaks police chief and U.S. Marshal Dub Bransom said he will be one of the challengers. “I think I could improve on the position as far as performance and philosophy, but I can’t condemn anything he’s done because it would be inappropriate to comment on innuendos,” he said. “I don’t want to run on his faults, I want to run on my positives. There are about four or five people going to run against him because of the things he’s done.”

Allen in full conversational flight resembles the governor in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, doing “The Sidestep.” After many controversies and 12 years in office, Allen has developed more than one style of dancing around the truth. There’s the Glazed Eye Method: Ask a simple question and he’ll spend 20 minutes responding in a slow, rambling fashion, refusing to be interrupted or steered back on course, and speaking in a monotone until his interrogator can no longer recall the question and barely cares anymore.

The Counter-Attack: If someone accuses him of something, he accuses them of five somethings, regardless of any semblance of truth. That’s one reason few people wish to tangle with him.

The Double-Fake: Gaucin’s settlement called for diversity training, which might imply some admission of fault. Allen dubbed the concession moot because he voluntarily requested diversity training “before the settlement.” It was, however, after the lawsuit was filed.

He also employed the Double-Fake to explain his suspension from personal use of his county vehicle. Numerous people interviewed during the research of this article said they had heard that Allen’s personal use of his county vehicle —for driving to and from work — was suspended after he was caught in a county vehicle and on county time erecting political signs for a candidate running against Judge Wright. Allen denied the accusation. “Never happened,” he said. “Here’s what happened with the car. I voluntarily — now this is personal, you print this and I’ll come visit you at your home — I voluntarily under medical advice surrendered my car to [Tarrant County Administrator] G.K. Maenius and asked that he take it off of my use.” Allen then told a sprawling story about a temporary medical condition that he said had caused him to voluntarily give up his car.

County commissioners, however, recall that Allen was disciplined for the political sign fiasco. “That led to him not being able to take his car home,” J.D. Johnson said. “He had to leave it at the garage.” Maenius issued Allen a six-month suspension for campaigning with a county car. “A constable is on duty 24-7, but you can’t use a county vehicle to do stuff like that,” he said. “We told him if it ever happened again he would lose his car permanently.”

Shortly after his suspension Allen sent a letter “voluntarily” relinquishing use of his county vehicle, citing doctor’s orders. Six months later, after the county suspension expired, Allen provided a doctor’s statement saying he was healthy and able to drive again.

A fourth method of tap-dancing around the truth is the Just You And Me Pal. Allen frequently criticized the Star-Telegram and county beat reporter Strassman and insisted that the Weekly would get the straight scoop and full cooperation, something he won’t give Fort Worth’s daily newspaper. Over coffee, he told a young waitress that I was a movie producer in town looking for “starlets to take to Hollywood,” and smiled at me like we were a team. In an IHOP parking lot, he leaned in close and revealed that Johnson had advised him and the district attorney’s office not to talk to the Weekly. Allen, however, offered strong assurance that he would fully cooperate.

“I’ll shoot straight with you,” he said.

That’s the fifth method — Just Plain Lie.

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