Sometimes you know there’s a big, juicy story swimming just under the threshold of public consciousness, but don’t have the tools, sources or knowledge to bring it to the surface. Such is the case with the FBI’s ongoing investigation of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, a powerful, long-serving fixture in the Dallas black political power structure. Right now the story involves current Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and money that may have improperly made it’s way from Rawlings’ campaign chest to Price’s pocket via political consultant Kathy Nealy. The FBI raided Price’s office last year.
The lefty Dallas Observer is more blunt in what the FBI is alleging: “The affidavit claims a pay-for-play scheme existed in which businesses would pay handsome consulting fees to Nealy’s company at about the time they were seeking to win a contract with Dallas County. A portion of that money would be funneled to Price, who would steer the favored contractor through the Commissioner’s Court.”
Not living in Dallas, the first time I ran across John Wiley Price’s name was in connection to the previous mayor of Dallas, then-aspiring Senate candidate Tom Leppert. Leppert and Price seem to have cooperated in killing Richard Allen’s Inland Port project, Leppert allegedly because it competed with a similar project by backer Ross Perot, Price allegedly because Allen wouldn’t pay Price and his cronies $1 million in shakedown money. I should hasten to add that Price, who has been a fixture on the Dallas political scene long before Leppert even moved there, is to the best of my knowledge not one of Leppert’s cronies, or even particularly close to him. However, Willis Johnson, who was allegedly part of the shakedown effort, is one of Leppert’s cronies, and was (along with the late Lynn Flint Shaw) one of Leppert’s conduits into the Dallas black community.
Price has an, ahem, interesting history. He was arrested for felony assault charges, of which he was acquitted just after the Rodney King riots. And his protege Aaron McCarthy is a member of the New Black Panther Party.
But if Price committed the crimes alleged in the FBI affidavit, the question is: How deep does the corruption go? How many other Dallas political players were paying off Price, and in exchange for what? Price has been in office a long, long time. It’s quite possible he has enough skeletons in his closet to make it an ossuary.
I don’t have the answers, and I don’t even have the knowledge or connections to properly dig for those answers. But I suspect we’re going to find out in the near future anyway…