DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Despite it being one day after the FBI searched the office of six-term commissioner John Wiley Price, his top assistant and the home and office of a political consultant, Price and his colleagues conducted business as usual in Tuesday’s standard Commissioners Court meeting.
As always, Price arrived at the county administration building before 6 a.m. on Tuesday. He was in his seat when County Judge Clay Jenkins gaveled the court into session at 9 a.m.
“I was fully prepared for today,” Jenkins said. “As far as any extra preparation this morning? I prayed a little longer than usual, but it’s business as usual here in Dallas County.”
Price took part in discussions on redistricting and honored two departing members of the District Attorney’s office who were instrumental in the Innocence Project, which has helped free wrongly convicted men and women in the county.
“Yesterday was yesterday and today’s a new day and it’s Commissioners Court day and it’s business as usual,” Price said. “I stay focused on the big picture. You don’t worry about the minutia, because if that’s the case you’d constantly be off task.”
There were no heated discussions during the quiet meeting, although Commissioner Mike Cantrell announced afterward that he may sue colleague Maurine Dickey for incorrectly saying his office was also being searched by the FBI.
“What I’ve been told is she knew it was a false statement that she was making and still continued to proffer that statement,” Cantrell said. “It was done with the intention to damage my reputation, and I’m not going to sit back and just let somebody do that.”
Commissioner Mike Cantrell on 1080 KRLD:
Dickey said she meant no malice in her comments to the media, saying she believed what she was saying to be factual.
“I’m sorry he misunderstood; that’s what my staff told me before I got to the building yesterday and what I believed exactly what the situation was,” Dickey said.
On June 7, the Republican commissioner accused Cantrell – the only other Republican on the court – of “pulling a sham” on their political party and throwing her under the bus. Dickey was upset after a redistricting plan was approved that will move her district into a Democratic one. She is not seeking reelection.
Public access was limited Monday to the downtown building where the commissioners meet, a structure formerly known as the Texas School Book Depository, after law enforcement personnel and vehicles were seen outside Price’s office.
Price, who has held office for more than 25 years, said he didn’t know the reason for the search.
“They’re not telling us very much. You guys know probably as much or more than we know,” Price told KRLD Morning News anchors Mike Rogers, Bonnie Petrie, and Scott Sams. “So, we’re just waiting to see what it’s all about. They did not attach an affidavit, so we don’t know.”
Commissioner John Wiley Price on 1080 KRLD:
When federal investigators searched the DeSoto house belonging to Price’s assistant, Dapheny Fain, they removed 10 boxes of files and searched two vehicles there; one of them a 2005 Bentley, valued between $130,000 and $150,000, registered to Price.
They also searched a pickup truck Price drove and a BMW convertible Fain was driving, both of which are registered to Price’s political consultant Kathy Nealy.
When told that some are questioning how a person living on a commissioner’s court salary can have a Bentley Price responded, “I’ve had one new car in my life. All of my cars are used cars and pre-owned and believe me I finance them like everybody else.”
The Bentley was previously owned by an inmate. Records show Price obtained a clear title on his Bently and four other vehicles through a public hearing at the county assessor’s office. The assessor’s office said Tuesday all of Prices requests were approved. Price has nine cars in total.
“Our job is not to question the vehicle people are buying, just to make sure the paperwork is in order,” County Tax Assessor John Ames said.
Fain would not comment on the vehicles as she left for the day in Price’s campaign car.
Price’s attorney, Billy Ravkind, said the FBI declined to tell him when it would unseal the affidavit supporting the search warrant. He said the warrants ask for “everything in the [federal] criminal code.”
The veteran criminal defense attorney said he’s learned some information about the case from witnesses and that those allegations are “bull.” He declined to be more specific but added that the searches are worrisome for Price.
“Anyone would be concerned if 20-plus agents dropped down and visited your office,” Ravkind told The Associated Press.
Three of the search warrants – two for Price’s cars and one for his person – concerned any electronic storage devices, including things like personal computers, mobile phones, personal data assistants, iPhones, iPads, disks and thumbdrives. The warrants also sought any computer cookies and passwords dating back to 2001, in addition to safety deposit box keys and sums of cash of $500 or more.
The searches occurred on the same day as the inauguration of newly elected Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who received strong support from Price.
The federal warrants concerned possible crimes including Theft or Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds; Attempt To Evade or to Defeat Tax; Structuring Transactions to Evade Reporting Requirements; and Laundering of Money Instruments.
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