John Wiley Price, the FBI and the media’s best guesses

Soon after the FBI started searching Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price’s office, vehicles and Oak Cliff home Monday, the Dallas media started searching for the reason why.

Price is not just one of the most powerful men in Dallas, he is also perhaps the most polarizing. He’s loved, and he’s hated. No one in the know doesn’t have an opinion about him. Eventually, it will all come out, and we will have answers when the FBI is ready. But eventually is not soon enough for the curious. So here are the media’s best guesses as to why the FBI is investigating Price.

1. The cars: JWP procured several cars that had once belonged to inmates of the Dallas County Jail. And he got title to them through what some describe as “secret hearings”. This was the media’s first guess, which was based on a 2009 report from WFAA. And the FBI did search and photograph all of JWP’s many cars, including a $130,000 Bentley (Price’s salary as a county commissioner is $130,000).

2. The land: The Dallas Morning News today reported that JWP bought two parcels of land on Marsalis near Zang from a lawyer, Bill Knox, who is one of the city’s most prolific bail bondsmen. That’s fishy, according to a DMN source, because Price serves on a board that regulates the county’s bail bond industry. But Price paid Knox $80,000 for the two parcels, which are appraised for tax purposes at $22,500 and $23,700. Could be something, and it’s always interesting to know who owns what real estate, but the transaction doesn’t seem that smelly to me. It is intriguing that Price evidently did not take out a loan to buy the parcels.

3. The art store: The FBI also was snooping around Southside on Lamar Monday, looking for the woman who owns an art shop there, according to WFAA. According to campaign finance records, JWP spent almost $46,000 of his campaign donations at the store, which a friend of his owns. Reporter Brett Shipp also questions why Price’s campaign spend $28,000 on vehicle repairs in four years.

4. KwanzaaFest: Price puts on this popular nonprofit celebration every year. And a 2009 tax return for KwanzaaFest shows the event took in more than $1,047,000. It itemizes $33,829 as “advertising and promotion”, but there is no explanation for $930,000, which is listed as “other expenses”. NBC DFW reports that a federal grand jury requested KwanzaaFest’s financial records.

Whatever the feds are after, “It won’t be something stupid or corny like you’d see on a TV show,” says the Observer’s Jim Schutze, who I think has the best analysis of the whole thing so far.


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