The John Wiley Price Investigation: Setting the Record Straight In More Ways Than One
I need to correct an error and an omission. Yesterday I posted an item identifying the lawyer who defended Dallas County Judge Jim Foster from an intimidation attempt by Commissioner John Wiley Price as Ken Barr. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Ken Barr is a former mayor of Fort Worth and member of the board of directors of the North Texas Tollway Authority. He has nothing to do with the FBI probe into the affairs of Price or with Price's efforts to use judges under his sway to intimidate his critics.
The lawyers who represented Foster when Price came after him were Christopher M. Weil and John Barr of Dallas, both able barristers. I'm especially mad at myself for misidentifying John Barr, because he has a long history of standing up for what's right in battles going way back to the vote fraud issues of a decade ago and deserves credit for his efforts.
John Barr, not Ken Barr.
The omission was Danny Defenbaugh, former FBI special agent in charge in Dallas, now in private security work. Defenbaugh was hired in September 2009 by commissioners Maurine Dickey, Kenneth Mayfield and Foster to investigate corruption in Dallas County government. I wrote an item earlier in the week about people who have been vindicated by the current FBI probe of the county -- not because the existence of a probe proves anybody is guilty of anything but because it shows the people calling for an investigation for the last three years were not nuts.
The general shape of the FBI probe emerging from federal documents released so far as well as information I have been able to glean from good sources lead me to believe that Defenbaugh's investigative report to the commissioners lies somewhere close to the center of the current FBI probe. The things Defenbaugh learned about money flowing through KwanzaaFest, Price's annual ethnic festival, clearly are now drawing scrutiny from his former colleagues at the FBI.
So in my list of people who are looking smarter lately, I should have put Defenbaugh somewhere near the top. And I should have had John Barr's name right.
That's about all the crow I can manage for today without gastrointestinal distress, so if you are aware of anything else I have screwed up, could you please keep that under your hat at least until Monday? Oh, forget I even asked.
A last thought, more about the story, less about moi: I attended the strange anti-FBI prayer meeting at Kirkwood Temple CME Church Wednesday night, where Freddie Haynes, pastor of Friendship-West, delivered his impassioned sermon tying together slavery, "silver rights," the Gestapo and the FBI. Friendship West you will remember from testimony in the 2009 Don Hill City Hall federal corruption trial as the church on whose parking lot the cash was passed.
I knew a lot of people I saw in the pews at Kirkwood. I've known them for years. These are fine people, solid family people with good moral sense. This chapter, as it unfolds, is going to be terribly painful for them, because they have believed in the virtue and courage of Price.
But the content of the warrants point the way toward the healing of that wound. For the first time ever -- the first time in a series of federal investigations going back a third of a century -- this one is looking across the river to the source of the money.
In the past people like former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, now in prison, have received a special moral allowance from the black community because the probes were never seen as fully legitimate, morally or legally. Why? Because the white folks on the other end of the corruption machine usually got a walk.
I'm not talking about relatively little guys like Brian Potashnik, the white apartment developer sentenced to prison for bribing Hill. Who? You can't see me right now, but I am pointing up. Up. Higher than that. Up up up. Way up the social business ladder.
What this investigation is beginning already to show is that Dallas's corruption problems are a two-way street, south and north, white and black, poor and rich, from top to bottom. If the evidence shows Price and his cohorts clearly in the wrong and if it also puts a spotlight on the rich white guys who manipulate from above, then the good people at Kirkwood temple will get it. They will heal from their pain. They will want to see right prevail.
I'm not so sure about the Park Cities. That's a harder moral nut to crack.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.