Editor’s Note: The following article includes strong language. Reader discretion is advised.
At-Large Commissioner Lucas Allen’s outbursts and expletive-laden threats lodged at Mayor Tom Lowry during Tuesday’s Three Rivers City Commission meeting were allegedly a continuation of erratic behavior Allen displayed over the weekend.
Watershed Voice first learned of the ongoing feud between fellow city commissioners after receiving a text/email message from Allen announcing his impending resignation, which he initially refuted sending, despite it coming from his personal phone number.
Allen contacted Watershed Voice on the morning of Saturday, March 4 via email to announce his resignation effective March 8. The email came via Vzwpix, an option for Verizon customers to send their texts as emails. Allen’s email/text read, “I am resigning as a Commissioner effective March 8th…8 AM. You want me first for an interview then call. Otherwise a lot bigger.”
Watershed Voice contacted Allen Monday morning for an interview, calling him using the same number from which the email originated. Allen claimed to be unable to hear audio and ended the call immediately. He did not respond after a second attempt to reach him via phone minutes later. Watershed Voice proceeded to send Allen an email later Monday morning explaining the phone call was in regards to his upcoming resignation. Tuesday morning Allen responded via email and said, “I am not resigning as a Commissioner and I’m guessing a wrong message or something got passed on.” Allen apologized for the inconvenience and said he would “keep working hard.”
In an interview Monday, Three Rivers Mayor Tom Lowry was asked to clarify whether Allen would be resigning from his position as at-large commissioner. Lowry said Allen made phone calls over a 48-hour period on March 3 and March 4 to himself, City Manager Joe Bippus, and Third District Commissioner Chris Abel. Lowry claims Allen was intoxicated and threatening to resign throughout conversations with his fellow commissioners. After allegedly speaking with Bippus on Saturday, Allen did not appear to have made a decision on whether he would follow through and step down, and said he would wait to decide. Attempts were made to corroborate Lowry’s claims with Bippus Tuesday but our call was not returned as of publication.
In the minutes prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Allen approached Watershed Voice Staff Writer Beca Welty outside of the commission chamber. Allen’s speech was slurred and he smelled of alcohol as he asked questions ranging from where to find Watershed Voice content, why Welty’s phone number had a different area code than that of St. Joseph County, what her political leanings were, and when she was born. Welty interrupted Allen’s line of questioning to ask about Allen’s text and subsequent denial that he sent it, to which Allen responded, “I’m not gonna put that shit on paper.”
Ultimately Allen admitted to sending the message but claimed he didn’t intend to send it to Watershed but rather “everyone else.” When asked if he still intended to resign, Allen replied, “Do you think I give a shit if you run it? I’m not resigning, I’ve done a lot, too much and too fast.”
The first item on the agenda was a Downtown Development Authority presentation. TRDDA Director Cameron Mains made a brief announcement regarding the upcoming Community Clean-Up Day on May 13. Mains invited the public to be a part of the event, saying it would encompass the downtown area as well as parks. When Mains was done presenting, Allen demanded he return to the microphone and elaborate on the announcement. Mains declined, and Allen said, “How many months has it been since you’ve walked up to this mic? And you don’t have anything to say? I appreciate you letting the public know what’s going on. Thank you.”
Allen’s next outburst came during discussions on whether to approve a preliminary sketch plan for the development of single-family homes on Arizona Boulevard in Meadowbrook Farms West. Concerned community members Eric and Chloe Reed addressed commissioners regarding whether an additional entrance would be made to accommodate the extra traffic, which comes with the construction of 52 homes. Lowry explained that traditionally the commission would not answer questions from the public at that time, but said it would ultimately be up to the developer to decide how to develop the property. Allen continually interrupted Lowry saying, “No, it’s not (up to the developer),” with Lowry using his gavel to bring order to the session. Allen responded, “If you slam that thing in my ear again, knowing my problem with disabilities, I’m telling you we’re going to have a problem.”
Allen demanded Lowry issue an apology despite Lowry pleading with him to allow the meeting to proceed, and for community members to be allowed to speak when they have the floor. Ignoring Lowry and directing his attention to the Reeds, Allen said, “Don’t you worry about this ‘Mr. Mayor’ that let me tit-for-tat and dot my i’s and cross my t’s. It doesn’t work that way, not anymore because I’m here.” Allen then announced he would officially run for mayor against Lowry, calling the longtime mayor “nothing.” When Lowry told him to “shut up,” Allen issued a direct threat saying, “If you don’t shut your fat ass up, I’m gonna beat your fucking ass.” Discussions regarding the Meadowbrook Farms West development were attempted, but repeatedly interrupted by Allen. City Manager Joe Bippus attempted to de-escalate at times, with Allen telling him, “I didn’t tell you to speak yet. Shut the fuck up.”
Lowry proceeded to use his gavel several more times to bring order to the session as Three Rivers police officers stood outside the commission chamber on notice. “You guys already called the cops on me? This is funny. Chief, you better call your people in now,” Allen said. Lowry made a motion on the floor to adjourn the meeting early, as Allen yelled to the public to “vote him out.” Ultimately, the meeting proceeded with Allen continuing his outbursts and launching them at City Attorney TJ Reed, At-Large Commissioner Torrey Brown, Police Chief Scott Boling, and Superintendent/Interim Director of Three Rivers Wastewater Treatment Plant Taylor Davis.
As the meeting came to an end, Lowry opened the floor for commissioner comments. “I want to say I apologize for anything I said tonight,” Allen began, “But I’ll just be honest, I don’t. Everything I said tonight is probably true.” Allen went on to say he found it “funny” if anyone decided to fact check his claims throughout the evening, and admitted he is unpredictable. “Now, Mr. Mayor, I asked you to apologize so I will apologize to you, and that’s the only apology you will get from me. If you do not apologize, I will take this as a personal ‘fuck you,’ I promise you.” Lowry did not apologize.
Allen urged someone to run against Lowry in an upcoming election, saying the mayor is “lucky” he gets elected on off-years with no governor or “major person” running. When the portion of the meeting for commissioner comments closed, Lowry set a motion for adjournment and Allen protested. “No, no, no, I’m not done,” he said. “If anyone wants more information I will sit here by myself.” He demanded the microphones be left on, saying, “If you say no, then I’ll say some shit.”
Following Tuesday’s meeting, At-Large Commissioner Torrey Brown said “the actions and repeated outbursts by Commissioner Allen were both disgusting and unprofessional.”
Watershed Voice reached out to Boling on Wednesday for comment, and clarification on the legality of threatening a public official, as well as why Allen was not removed from the meeting after threatening Lowry and repeatedly disrupting the proceedings. Watershed also left a message for Boling Wednesday, who later left a message in return saying, “I’m not going to be making a comment in reference to the meeting last night.”
Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist, and Alek Haak-Frost is executive editor and publisher for Watershed Voice.