Let's check back in, shall we, on our county's "homeland security" program by which it is supposed to protect us from terrorist attack, massive flooding, tornado, pandemic, poison gas, things like that. I just want to see if we all understand what took place last week, and then I will have a question for you.
Last week the Dallas County Commissioners Court was about to reappoint a man named Aaron McCarthy to the Dallas County Homeland Advisory Committee when concerned residents pointed out that under a different name 22 years ago McCarthy was the founder of an international anti-Semitic hate group.
The hate group, called the "New Black Panthers" (no relation to the originals) is still very much alive and kicking here and in Europe, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. So is McCarthy.
John Wiley Price
As recently as last August on a poster advertising an anti-FBI rally in support of County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is the focus of an ongoing federal corruption investigation, McCarthy, a featured sponsor and speaker at the rally, was identified as the founder of the New Black Panthers.
At last week's commissioners court meeting, Price, who has been McCarthy's mentor in the past, appeared to be his main sponsor for reappointment.
It's not easy to find out what the Dallas County Homeland Security Advisory Committee is or does. In fact, last week when the McCarthy matter blew up, the county's homeland security director released his own report arguing that the committee doesn't do anything and should be abolished.
But his report conveyed that the committee at least wants to share information and have information shared with it by top law enforcement officials, whether or not that has ever actually happened. It seems unlikely.
McCarthy's identity as the former Aaron Michaels who founded the NBPP may have been a shock to our county commissioners, but it can't have been much of a surprise to law enforcement. As has been widely reported in the last week, McCarthy aka Michaels and his group garnered headlines two decades ago by fighting with school district security personnel at a school board meeting and then threatening to return later with shotguns.
Less known generally to the public but certainly known to law enforcement would have been McCarthy's role in the murder trial and subsequent appeals of his former wife, Kimberly LaGayle McCarthy, now on death row. She originally was tried and sentenced to death in 1998 for killing an elderly woman whose finger she chopped off with a butcher knife in order to obtain the woman's diamond engagement ring.
Kimberly LaGayle McCarthy's conviction was overturned in 2001 when the court found that Aaron McCarthy had not accurately represented his wife's wishes to police regarding her desire to see a lawyer before confessing. She was tried again quickly and sentenced to death again quickly. A U.S. district court last year turned down a federal appeal.
McCarthy's ex-wife was a crack cocaine addict who, prosecutors allege, killed other people before the murder of which she was convicted. No evidence was presented at trial to indicate McCarthy's role in his wife's case involved trickery or complicity. If anything, he may have been overeager to see her confess.
But he is an enigmatic figure to this day. I tried for a week to find a way to reach him. I finally found online a phone number for an enterprise listing him as its "Chief Operating Officer" under a repeatedly misspelled name, "North Central Texas Emergency Mangement [sic] Training Seminar and Expo Group." According to other websites, this outfit is related somehow to another entity called, "Ze'Deq Ministries." When I called the phone number, a man answered, but when I asked for McCarthy, the man hung up.
Dallas County Commissioner Maurine Dickey told me last week that McCarthy maintains his own office on county property and may be involved in federal grants. Security and communications devices — specifically a pair of large, never-used satellite dishes on trailers — have figured prominently in news reports about the Price corruption probe.
When the commissioners court learned last week it was about to reappoint the founder of an international hate group to its Homeland Security Advisory Committee, whatever that is, the court balked, and the spotlight was on McCarthy. He ducked most interviews but told Fox 4 News reporter Shaun Rabb, "I have no clue why people think I am anti-Semitic."
McCarthy told Rabb he did "not regret the great work" his group had done over the years, but he said, "I shun their philosophy." Then he disappeared from public view again.
At the commissioners court meeting, Price asserted that McCarthy was "certified" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to serve as a community emergency response volunteer. A FEMA spokesman confirmed to me last week that this was true, although the spokesman pointed out to me several times that the vetting required for that post is carried out by the state.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins effectively put an end to the controversy over McCarthy's reappointment by proposing that the committee be abolished. Jenkins cited the report from the county's director of homeland security to the effect that the committee is redundant and never does anything anyway.
So where does all of this leave us in terms of McCarthy's qualifications for an official role in our county's preparations for Armageddon? Those qualifications would seem to be:
One: May have threatened to break up school board meeting 20 years ago with shotguns but never did.
Two: Never chopped anybody's finger off with a butcher knife.
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Three: Formed an international anti-Semitic hate group and still brags about it on posters for anti-FBI rallies but says he does not understand why anybody thinks he's an anti-Semite.
Four: Is certified by FEMA.
Apparently the county commissioners will vote at their next meeting to abolish the Committee of Whatever to avoid having to talk about McCarthy again. But I wanted to make sure before we dropped it that we all had a good picture of last week's events. And, remember I said I would have a question for you at the end?
From here on out, how reassuring will you find this phrase: "Certified by FEMA"?