By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
Allen's credibility was attacked from the instant he was named, chiefly because he was unknown to almost everyone, including the men who appointed him. The city press release provided only the sketchiest of information -- that he grew up in Miami, is married with two grown children, obtained his bachelor's and his law degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, teaches classes at St. Thomas's law school, and until his appointment, occasionally mediated code-enforcement cases for the city and the county.
Had New Times been able to sit down with Allen, the interview might have gone something like this:
New Times: So Mr. Allen, what are your plans for District 5? What skills and perspective do you bring to your role as commissioner in the city's most vulnerable neighborhoods? How do you answer critics who allege that, as an appointee, you will be beholden to fellow commissioners rather than your constituents?
Jeffery Allen: ?
Mr. Allen, why do you have a homestead exemption on a three-bedroom, three-bath home in Lake Worth, and yet live in and vote from your mother's house on NW 51st Street in Miami? Public records show that you and your wife, Lauren Young Allen, purchased the Palm Beach County home in 1998.
Jeffery Allen: ?
Mr. Allen, when you briefly ran for a local congressional seat in 1989, why did you lie about your age, your profession, your address, and your party affiliation? You and a dozen other candidates were vying for an open seat to replace the late Claude Pepper. On a résumé you furnished to the media, you said you were a 32-year-old lawyer living at your mother's home, and a Democrat. But when theMiami Herald checked, it turned out you were 33 years old, not a licensed attorney, actually lived in a North Miami Beach apartment, and were a registered Republican. TheHerald reporter described your answers as swinging from "contorted confessions to downright denials." You then dropped out of the race. You did become a member of the Florida Bar, but not until 1995.
Jeffery Allen: ?
Mr. Allen, could you explain what happened in 1996, when the Florida Supreme Court granted the Florida Bar an injunction against you for improperly soliciting business from the families of victims of the ValuJet crash? Also, if you can, please explain why the Georgia Supreme Court denied you the right to take the Georgia Bar exam in 2002.
In 1996 the Florida Bar went after several lawyers, including former Miami City Commissioner Humberto Hernandez, for soliciting bereaved family members sequestered at a Miami Springs hotel. In Allen's case, the clincher was a deposition from Bruce Newbold, whose two cousins were killed in the plane crash. Newbold stated that Allen portrayed himself as an attorney who was representing "a large majority" of the black families at the hotel. Newbold told him that his family already had a lawyer, to which he said Allen replied, "Well, we are trying to get all the black families to go with one attorney. There's power in numbers." Newbold also disclosed, under questioning, that Allen intimated he could help with burial costs. Allen really only had one other ValuJet client at the time, according to records.
Allen was also caught on videotape at the hotel by WPLG-TV (Channel 10)'s Jennifer Snell, who was reporting on the brazen ambulance-chasing of lawyer sharks who'd descended on the families. In the broadcast, Snell speaks with Allen, who at first is happy for the free advertising. Then Snell pops the question about his lone client: "Now, did she contact you?"
Allen: "Listen, I don't want to get into that sort of comment. Let's just--"
Snell: "No, no, I'm just trying to figure out how you got in touch with her. Did you come here to the hotel?"
Allen: "No, I'm not commenting on that."
Snell: "Don't you think it is a very vulnerable time for these people? Shouldn't they contact you if they want representation?"
Allen: "I'm afraid I have to end this conversation."
Snell: "Sir, I think this is a valid question."
Allen walked away without answering the question, which seems to be his first instinct. That disturbed the Georgia Board of Bar Examiners so much they refused to let him take the state's bar exam. His actions in the Florida case, they wrote, "demonstrated a lack of integrity and character." Allen showed "a lack of accountability and candor" in admitting to the facts before the Georgia board. The Georgia Supreme Court sided with the attorneys, stating, "Allen has failed to establish that he is fit to practice law in this state."
New Times: Commissioner Allen, anything to say?