An Alberta politician charged in Minnesota with paying for prostitutes wants more time to decide whether he should keep his seat in the legislature or resign.
Mike Allen, elected in 2012 for the governing Progressive Conservatives, was arrested last week in a prostitution sting while on a government trip in St. Paul. Mr. Allen, 51, on Monday issued his third public apology, but for the first time delivered it in front of news cameras.
He told reporters gathered inside his constituency office in Fort McMurray that he is embarrassed, sorry and hopes for forgiveness. He said he wants to talk with voters and see if he can rebuild their trust before making a decision on his political future. He plans to make up his mind before the fall sitting of the legislature.
"I will not short-circuit that conversation by stepping aside immediately, as less difficult a route as that might be for me personally," he said. "Fort McMurray is my home. I love this community and I won't decline to face it in a moment of personal crisis."
Mr. Allen is now sitting as the member for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo as an Independent. He stepped down from the Tory caucus last Tuesday, the morning after his arrest. He also quickly paid back the $2,000 expense tab for the trip.
He was formally charged Friday with a gross misdemeanour of solicitation of prostitution in a public place. The charge carries a maximum one-year sentence and a $3,000 fine.
Mr. Allen said he learned about the charge through the media and has yet to consult with a defence lawyer. He is scheduled to appear in St. Paul court Sept. 30.
A court document alleges Mr. Allen phoned a number listed on an erotic online ad and took a limo to a motel, where he met with an undercover female police officer. He allegedly agreed to pay $200 for sex with two women, put the U.S. cash on a counter and began to undress before other officers came into the room and placed him under arrest.
Mr. Allen, single with grown children, wouldn't talk about the specifics of his arrest.
"What I can tell you is that this has not been a pattern of behaviour in the past, and clearly, it will not be in the future," he said. "I will be taking time to reflect on the personal circumstances in my life that led me to make the decision I made, and I will determine what I need to do to ensure I am never in a place personally where I will make this kind of mistake ever again."
In an interview with the Fort McMurray Today newspaper, Mr. Allen said he ended a serious relationship several months ago and was lonely. "It seemed like a simple solution that would be harmless. That obviously wasn't the case."
Premier Alison Redford has said she is "disgusted" by Mr. Allen's conduct, but she has also said it's up to his constituents to decide whether he should remain as a legislature member.
The Opposition Wildrose repeated its calls for Mr. Allen to resign so there can be a by-election. The party is also looking at pushing the issue toward a vote among members of the legislature when they return to work in October, said Leader Danielle Smith.
"[Mr. Allen] cannot effectively represent Fort McMurray residents while he's dealing with the U.S. justice system. That much should be obvious," she said. "I don't see any way in which a person who's been charged with breaking U.S. law can get past this with his constituents."
The party paid for its own poll, by Abingdon Research, which asked people living in his constituency whether he should stay or step aside. Of the 219 people who responded, 69 per cent said he needs to go. The party said the poll has a margin of error of 6.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Fort McMurray radio station CKYX also conducted an informal online poll on the hot-button topic. About 44 per cent of voters said Mr. Allen should resign. But 47 per cent clicked on opposite responses, either urging Mr. Allen to "stay on and continue to represent our region," "it's only soliciting a prostitute. Who cares?" and "prostitution should be legal anyway."
Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said it's impossible to accurately gauge what people in the community want Mr. Allen to do. "The only opportunity that constituents have to effect that is in the next election."