On Wednesday, February 22, the Havana Town Council met under an emergency meeting regarding the potential removal of a board member – DeCorkus Allen.
According to documents listed on the Gadsden Clerk of the Court website, Allen had been arrested by officers with the Quincy Police Department on February 17 on charges related to felony fleeing and eluding, and a misdemeanor driving under the influence.
Under Havana’s town charter, the council is granted the authority to suspend any member of the council who has committed a felony.
The February 22 began with Town Manager Kendrah Wilkerson reading off the council’s authority on suspension to board members, before advising that the board allow Allen (who was in attendance) to state his case.
Upon approaching the podium at the council’s invite, Allen asked if the council had any questions.
“What happened?” was asked plainly by Councilman Nick Bert, the only question that opened up the next 30 or so minutes of discussion on the matter of Allen’s arrest, his contest of guilt, and following decision by the board.
At Bert’s question, Allen admitted that he had been arrested on the felony of fleeing and eluding (as well as the misdemeanor – but town charter does not grant the council the ability to remove another councilmember over an accused misdemeanor – thus the driving under the influence charge was not on the table for council consideration or discussion.
“I was charged with fleeing and eluding,” said Allen. “Which is not logically possible when I am in a 16-passenger van.”
According to Allen, he did not see the police officer behind him during an attempted traffic stop due to furniture in the back of his van.
“I could not see him behind me,” continued Allen. “As soon as he pulled to the side [of my vehicle] and motioned for me to pull over, I pulled over.”
Under town charter, council members only need to be arrested for a felony, not formally found guilty, for the council to remove them from office.
“The charter does give you discretion, whether you want to or not,” said Allen – who requested the council make a decision of compassion, and not remove Allen from the council on a charge Allen did not believe he was guilty of…a charge that the judicial system had not yet filed on their end.
According to the police report (also on the clerk of the court website), at around 1:30 p.m. on February 17, two officers of the Quincy Police Department were dispatched to the area of Jefferson and Madison Streets (in Quincy) in reference to a large vehicle that was ‘driving erratically’ on Jefferson Street.
The officers located the vehicle, driven by Allen, traveling west on Jefferson Street, and the report states that the officers caught up with Allen and observed the driving patterns before attempting to conduct a traffic stop as the van turned onto Pat Thomas Parkway.
The report states that after turning onto Pat Thomas Parkway, the vehicle began traveling at a speed of 62 miles-per-hour, nearly double the legal speed limit of that roadway.
The officers stated that they turned on their marked patrol vehicle’s lights and sirens, signaling the vehicle to slow down.
All the while, the report states that the large van was drifting outside of its lane of travel and not stopping for the officers.
The Quincy officers continued to follow the vehicle through several stop lights before one of the officers pulled into the lane on the vehicle’s driver’s side, signaling Allen to pull over – which he did, pulling into the Cato Plaza of Quincy on Pat Thomas Parkway.
Upon officers’ request, Allen exited the vehicle, and unprompted informed them that he was carrying a firearm; Allen informed officers that he was legally licensed to carry the firearm, and complied as officers removed the Wesson revolver from his possession.
While removing the revolver, the officer noted in the police report that he ‘smelled a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from [Allen’s] person’.
The officer also claimed that Allen’s eyes were ‘glassy and bloodshot’.
After informing Allen of the reason for the traffic stop, officers made contact with a witness who had followed Allen and the officers to the scene of the crime; the witness – a Havana Police Department officer – provided a sworn statement that he had been driving on Highway 12 (Havana Highway) when he noticed a vehicle driving erratically, with its passenger wheels off the roadway and on the grass shoulder.
The witness also stated that he had seen the vehicle drift into the opposing lane of travel several times, as well as onto a sidewalk, and that Allen had also driven through a red light at North Madison and King Streets.
Quincy officers said they returned to Allen, and informed him that this was now an investigation into driving under the influence – at which point Allen was read his Miranda warning and agreed to speak with officers.
Allen stated that he had not been drinking, but then later admitted that he had consumed alcohol that morning – but added that it was only one glass of wine.
The report says that the officers asked Allen if he knew, without looking at a clock, what time it currently was – Allen believed the time to be around 8 a.m.; by this time, it was 2 p.m.
Allen also informed officers that he was traveling home to Havana – but the report claims he was traveling west, away from Havana.
Officers asked Allen if he would consent to field sobriety tests, and the report states that Allen asked multiple times why he was being asked to conduct those exercises, and stated that he did not believe he should have to prove his sobriety.
The report says that Allen did eventually consent to the sobriety exercises, but did not complete them to the satisfaction of the officers; the report adds that Allen refused to conduct any more sobriety tests after the second one.
Allen was then placed under arrest on the charge of driving under the influence.
After Allen was placed under arrest, the report says that the officers conducted a search of his vehicle, finding a Popeyes’ fast food cup in the console; the cup reportedly contained wine and the officers reported that after bringing it to Allen’s attention, “Allen spontaneously uttered that there was wine in the Popeye’s cup inside the vehicle.”
Allen was transported to Gadsden County Jail, where he refused to conduct a breath test.
At the Havana Town Council meeting on February 22, Allen was escorted by his assigned public defender, Aaron Wade, an attorney with the 2nd Circuit Court of Florida.
Wade was given approval to speak to the council.
“I would ask you to lean on the presumption of innocence,” asked Wade.
Wade stressed that Allen’s vehicle made it difficult to see officers behind him, and that the daytime brightness also made it difficult to see the lights from the vehicle.
Wade provided photos for the council that showed the obstructed view of Allen’s back window, limiting his visibility.
“Let’s look at the evidence – is this someone that our commonsense says would be trying to flee an officer?” asked Wade, stressing that Allen pulled over immediately after the officer came to his driver’s side.
Wade then reminded the board that while the charter gives them the authority to suspend an arrested councilmember, it does not mandate that they must suspend that person.
“There is a reason that the charter gives you discretion – not every case is the same,” added Wade.
Wade then asked that the council hold off in making a suspension decision until he and Allen could see what the State Attorney’s office decided – if they chose to drop the case, rather than prosecute, then Allen would no longer be facing a felony charge, and the suspension would be irrelevant.
Town Manager Wilkerson reminded the council that this was ‘uncharted territory’ for them.
“This puts you in a more precarious position,” Wilkerson stated.
The council has not had, to Wilkerson’s knowledge, the need to decide whether or not to suspend another council member based on a felony crime charge – and the decision they made that night would act as a precedent for any future occasions.
Councilmember Eddie Bass first suggested the council err towards suspension – adding that if Allen is eventually found not-guilty, or the charge is dropped, he can come back as a council member without any changes.
However, a further conversation between Wade, the council, and Allen eventually turned Bass’ decision.
Wade informed the council that he believed he could get a decision (to charge or not to charge) from the State Attorney’s office within a matter of weeks, and Councilman Bert made a motion to postpone any decision regarding Allen’s suspension until March 22.
Wade said he believed the council had a decision from the State Attorney’s office by that date.
Bass seconded Bert’s motion, and the board voted unanimously to postpone the decision until March 22.
Allen currently remains on Havana’s Town Council as an active council member until that date.
Ashley Hunter – email@example.com