Hey, John Wiley, Give a Dog a Bone, Willya?

Doesn't it seem like only yesterday that Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was telling everybody that County Judge Jim Foster was wacky? Now who wears the wacko jacket every week at commissioners court?

This week Price harangued Foster for wanting to direct the county's constables to carry out background checks on their deputies, after a Dallas Morning News story revealed that the recently arrested top deputy of Constable Jaime Cortes is, among other things, father of all three of the children of his own foster daughter. Price thought Foster was way out of line for trying to tell constables how to conduct their own offices.


But also this week Price led the charge in directing Constable Ben Adamcik to stop using a drug seizure dog. Price and fellow commissioner Ken Mayfield expressed their anger at the dog's handler, who won a judgment against the county recently for overtime pay.

The ability of the commissioners to tell constables what to do is limited by the state constitution. Constables are elected constitutional officers. For the most part, the Commissioners Court has sway over the budgets of all county operations, including constables, over use of county equipment and over certain standards set by law.

Judge Foster told Unfair Park just now that Price is wrong on both counts. Foster said the Commissioners Court did have authority to require the background checks, because the checks are a requirement of state law, and the Commissioners Court has authority to require the constables to obey the law.

But Foster said the court probably does not have constitutional authority to tell Constable Adamcik not to use the dog, which is paid for with drug seizure money, not county money. "The question is, 'Do you have the statutory authority?'" Foster said. "My personal opinion is" No, we don't."

Foster predicted that Price will double back and get it wrong again next week when Foster moves the court to impose certain limits on the use of county vehicles by constables and their deputies. "My prediction is that Price will flip-flop next week," he said. "I think Price is going to say next week, 'You can't do that. You don't have any purview.'"

In the dog vote yesterday, Foster was joined by fellow commissioner Maureen Dickey in voting against telling Constable Adamcik what to do with this dog.

Isn't it interesting how Foster, with Dickey at his side, emerges more and more as the voice of reason, and Price is the one who seems to believe what a deputy constable does with his own foster daughter is his own damn business?

Unfair Park called Price for comment. A person who answered the phone as Valencia said, "Commissioner Price don't talk to the Observer" and hung up.

He's got the jacket, and he's not about to give it up.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze