Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell Takes the Stand Against John Wiley Price

Gary Myrick
John Wiley Price
If anyone knows John Wiley Price's work on the Dallas County Commissioner's Court, it's Mike Cantrell. The two served on the court together for more than 20 years.

Often, they've butted heads — Cantrell is the only Republican currently on the court, while Price is a stalwart Democrat — but they've worked together too, serving on the court's powerful information technology committee, which is responsible for handing out the county's lucrative tech contracts. Cantrell, called to testify against his colleague by federal prosecutors Wednesday, said that Price knows more about county business than anyone.

He also said, however, that if he knew about the kickbacks coming to Price from companies competing for the contracts, he would've turned Price over to the district attorney. He also said he never heard about such allegations until 2011, when the federal investigation into Price shifted into high gear.

Price is accused of peddling inside information and selling his influence to Nealy's clients for cash and other benefits. Because he was so plugged in politically, Cantrell told jurors, Price was uniquely positioned to provide information that might not even be available to other commissioners, much less the general public. "Commissioner Price has a network that allows him to have information that typically we don't because a lot of people feed him information," Cantrell acknowledged.

Since Cantrell joined the commissioner's court in 1995, he said, Price never recused himself from voting. County regulations require any potential conflict-of-interest to be disclosed to the commissioner's court.

Price, to judge from the records, never had a single conflict, despite Nealy's relationships with so many businesses competing for county contracts, and alleged meetings between Price and vendors.

"We shouldn't be meeting with vendors," Cantrell said.

In the aftermath of Price's indictment, Cantrell was the lone county commissioner to speak out against his colleague. In August 2014, he called for Price's suspension from office until the commissioner's corruption trial ended, only to see his motion fail for lack of a second.

Cantrell said at the time that his move against Price was about setting an example for county employees, not politics. "Take politics totally out of it, what is in the best interest of the county and what type of example do you set for the employees of Dallas County?" Cantrell told the Observer. "That's why I'm doing it. Yes, I may not get the votes to make this thing happen, but it's the principle of it. Why do we have a code of ethics if we're not going to follow it?"

U.S. District Judge Barbary Lynn called it quits for the day before Cantrell could be cross-examined. The defense will pick up its questioning of the commissioner on Monday, following scheduled off days on Thursday and Friday.