DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – As the Dallas County Commissioners Court convened for the first time since Commissioner John Wiley Price and three others were arrested and charged in a federal corruption probe, it was business as usual. Extra security was noticeable — but the expected crowds and heightened controversy never materialized. Still, the indictment was not being ignored.
“What has taken place here has shaken the very foundation of this institution,” District 2 Commissioner Mike Cantrell said. “It goes directly opposite of what the public expects from their government. They want to know that there’s a level playing field, and they can trust and have confidence in their government that they’re going to do the right thing.”
Cantrell, a frequent Price adversary on the court, acknowledges that Commissioner Price is innocent until proven guilty. But, the republican still says the county cannot wait until the trial to address public perceptions of dishonesty in county business dealings.
“So, we need to look at different ways we can effect change regarding procurement.”
Last month, Commissioner Price was charged in an 11 count federal indictment accusing him of trading his influence for cash, land and cars. Price has pleaded not guilty and insists he will not resign his position. So he will remain.
“The court really doesn’t have the power to remove anyone,” explained Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Instead, Jenkins says he wanted to remain focused on minimizing the distraction and continue efforts to tighten any loopholes in the county bid process.
Still, that didn’t stop Dallas County Republican Party Chair Wade Emmert from challenging the court to take action. He spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, and called for there, as he has previously, for Commissioner Price to step down.
“I don’t think this Commissioners Court should sit idly by while Commissioner Price continues to hold the position of trust and influence that he’s alleged to have betrayed,” he said.
Price appeared unmoved by the comments – showing no reaction to calls for his resignation, or to support from speakers who argued that he is being targeted for his outspoken, unapologetic advocacy for the poor and people of color.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Cantrell told CBS 11 News that he is working on a resolution of some sort to express his displeasure —even while acknowledging that the move cannot remove Price from his position.
“It may be symbolic,” Cantrell admitted, “but it also sends a message that we expect a lot of our elected officials. And we set that bar high.”
Price could be forced out of Commissioners Court if he is convicted.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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