UPDATED: March 10, 2017 1:37 PM
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A witness in the corruption trial of John Wiley Price testified today that the Dallas County Commissioner voted against a project that would have helped his constituents.
Rob Huthnance, owner of a warehouse construction company that was part of the proposed project in 2006, told jurors that for “no good reason” Price was the only one on the Commissioners Court to vote to delay designating parts of South Dallas County as a federally recognized Foreign Trade Zone.
Huthnance said he was “absolutely shocked” by Price’s vote, considering the project, known as the FTZ, was to be a boon for parts of the comissioner’s economically depressed district by developing a trading and distribution hub for overseas goods.
But the FBI, in their corruption case against Price, says it knows the reasons: He was working behind the scenes, taking bribes from his friend and associate, lobbyist Kathy Nealy, to steer certain lucrative projects and contracts to Dallas County.
Nealy, at the time of the FTZ vote, was a paid lobbyist for Hillwood, a company owned by Dallas billionaire Ross Perot, which had wanted its real estate interests in neighboring DeSoto to be included in the project.
The government has said neither Hillwood, nor any other company that paid Nealy to be a lobbyist, realized she was using their money to bribe Price.
During cross-examination, one of Price’s lawyers, Chris Knox, hammered away at Huthnance, getting him to admit he didn’t recall names or save emails that would support his claims that Price’s actions, regarding the FTZ, seemed inappropriate.
Knox also noted that the majority rules in the commisioners’ casting of votes, so Price “had absolutely zero to do” with delaying the start of the trade zone.
In other testimony, Katherine Connolly described her frustrations in 2008 when she worked for Unisys, an IT company that failed in its bids to gain technical support work for Dallas County’s massive computer network.
Connolly told jurors that Unisys, in two separate bids, was first told it had won the contracts, only to have them rejected in the final hours.
In frustration, Connolly said she and another company official had a “lunch meeting” with Price and Nealy. She said she later learned that meeting was in violation of county rules stipulating a “no contact” period between elected officials and companies seeking contracts.
Price and his executive assistant, Dapheny Fain, are both on trial in federal court. Nealy, meanwhile, is scheduled to stand trial at a later date.