FOR INSTANCE, DID YOU KNOW?
With not even a high school diploma
JEB BUSH Appointed Clark to the Judicial Nominating Commission!
Career of DOC Official is over; but inquiry isnt
Published Monday, October 10, 2005
There is no part of Allen Clark's life we are not interested in, an investigator says.
TALLAHASSEE -- The last item in the Department of Corrections personnel file of Allen Clark is a short and enigmatic letter.
"It is with great regret that I hereby resign my position," Clark wrote in the Aug. 30 letter to his friend and mentor, DOC Secretary James Crosby. "I have learned a lot and contribute much of my career to your guidance."
The hundreds of other pages in the file, however, portray a conflicted story of a high school dropout who began his career in 1988 making $14,243 and rose to Region I director, making more than $94,000 to oversee one-third of the state's prisoners.
His ascent came despite numerous Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigations that concluded Clark misused funds, lied to investigators, improperly used inmates for work in his quarters, beat inmates and intimidated fellow workers who questioned him.
With Clark's resignation, his personnel file may be closed. But the final chapter in Clark's DOC career may be written in a courtroom as FDLE and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents continue a sprawling investigation under the watch of a statewide prosecutor.
"Right now," said one state investigator, "there is no part of Allen Clark's life that we are not interested in."
Investigators are looking into Clark's association with former correctional officers who have been charged in a steroids ring. At least two have plea deals requiring them to testify truthfully in federal court proceedings tha t could incriminate others.
Another area under scrutiny is Clark's handling of money flowing through an employees' club and a recycling program in the prison system. This echoes a 1999 FDLE investigation that accused Clark of improperly using money to defray costs of softball and flag football teams that played in tournaments against teams from other prisons. That investigation led to no discipline, despite the testimony of other employees that Clark and his friends threatened retaliation against anyone protesting his use of the funds.
Asked how Clark ascended through the ranks despite his checkered history, Department of Corrections officials declined to comment and specific requests for Crosby's comments were also declined. A request for comments from Clark was declined by his Tallahassee lawyer, Stephen Dobson.
But interviews and a review of Clark's file show two threads:
A close relationship with Crosby and a penchant for fostering fear among those who protested Clark's actions.
Clark's connections to Crosby date to at least 1990 when Crosby signed a Gilchrist County certificate attesting that he witnessed Clark's marriage.
After he was hired in 1988, Clark was promoted rapidly, his only setback coming in 1994 when an FDLE investigation portrayed Clark as a vindictive man who kicked inmates in their heads and beat them with handcuffs.
Clark was suspended for 60 days. But his following performance reviews were glowing. "Keep up the good work!" said one evaluation in 1998.
The following year brought three more FDLE investigations that concluded Clark lied to investigators responding to anonymous complaints that Clark had improperly used inmates to complete unapproved renovations to state-provided living quarters.
The investigations also contained testimony that Clark threatened other employees if they protested a fiefdom of employee-funded softball teams.
DO C officials did not debate the findings, but also declined to punish Clark, who would move on to become warden of Florida State Prison before being named the Region I director by Crosby in 2004.
That Clark could overcome accusations of violence and intimidation under Crosby comes as no surprise to Ron McAndrew. The former warden of Florida State Prison left in the late 1990s, saying Crosby pushed him out.
McAndrew said Clark's abuse of prisoners in 1994 should have resulted in his firing, but added that Crosby has condoned such actions.
"There's only one way that anything like that could happen and that's to put somebody like James V. Crosby in a position of power," McAndrew said.
McAndrew has been a vocal critic of Crosby's, adding that most correctional officers fear for their jobs and won't criticize either Crosby or Clark.
"People all over the state are afraid, seriously afraid for their careers," he said. "They don't dare breath a word ."
FEARS OF RETALIATION
That was evidenced in yet another FDLE investigation centering on Clark in April that found Clark beat a man during a softball banquet in Tallahassee. The man had accidentally slipped and knocked down a female acquaintance of Clark's. FDLE investigators urged the man to file charges, saying Clark needed to be brought down.
"We know he beats people," the investigator said. "We've got to get him out of the system."
But the beating victim declined, saying he feared that Clark would transfer his wife from her DOC job in the Panhandle.
Employees who worked with Clark say those who stood up to him or crossed him found themselves transferred to other prisons and got the least desirable shifts. Among the many current and former state correctional officers who have provided details about their dealings with Clark, few were willing to allow their names to be used publicly.
"I'm not working there anymore, but most of my family still gets their paychecks from the prisons and I don't want them hurt," explained one woman who said she left DOC after eight years and three shift changes she claimed were retaliatory for twice talking to investigators about Clark.
"Something you have got to understand is that even with A.C. (Clark) out of the system, there are others that were falling in with him and they still work here," said another officer. "Who is going to be the next enforcer for the secretary? I'm relieved Clark is gone, but I don't know who may be coming up next."
A former correctional officer willing to speak out said he retired with 20 years in the system instead of completing his goal of 30 years after his encounter with Clark. Kevin Dean was the lieutenant responsible for the narcotics canine program run under the prison's Inspector General's Office between the spring of 2000 and June 2003. The statewide unit included 12 officers and their drug-sniffing dogs.
The units would check for drugs at prisons around the state, and would also work if requested with other agencies. During the spring of 2003, Dean said his canine unit was working at a nearby prison when Union County sheriff's officials asked that the dogs make a sweep through the high school parking lots. A dog alerted on three cars in the student parking lot, indicating the presence of drugs.
"We didn't have any arrest powers, so when a dog alerted, we would notify a deputy and then send a report to Tallahassee on the alert whether there was an arrest or not," Dean said.
One of the cars that a dog alerted on in Union County had been driven to school by Lance Clark, Allen Clark's son.
"There were traces of marijuana in that car, but a deputy who was working with us said there was not enough for an arrest," Dean said. "That happened on a Thursday or a Friday. On Monday I got a call from Allen Clark, who was working at Florida State Prison then, and the first thing he said to me was, `Hey man, I thought we were tight.' "
Dean said the conversation got heated when Clark threatened to shut down the canine program and claimed that dogs were worthless because there was no marijuana found in Lance Clark's car.
"He also said he had his son (Lance) drug tested and that the boy had passed," Dean said. "I told him (Allen Clark) to go through my supervisor and I hung up."
Within two days, Deputy Inspector General Walt Murphree declared there would be no more outside work done by the canine unit -- the dogs would only work on prison property.
Dean said his then-regional director Brad Carter informed him that the canine unit was being shut down at the end of June 2003. While the other officers involved in the unit were sent back to the prisons they had been working at previously, Dean, who had been at Lancaster Correctional Institution, wound up at Cross City Correctional Institution working the midnight to 8 a.m. shift.
Dean said he was convinced he was being punished for the dogs alerting on the Clark car at the high school. The only negative mark in Dean's folder was a three-day suspension for a paperwork error committed while signing inmate disciplinary referral forms.
"Allen Clark has ruined a lot of careers through his tactics, and I could see what was going on in my case so I retired at the end of December 2003," Dean said. "Once he gained power and notoriety, it went on from there and not many people out here were sorry to see him resign."
Joe Follick is a reporter in The Ledger's Tallahassee bureau. Karen Voyles is a reporter for the Gainesville Sun.RELATED ARTICLES
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