Old School

Page 6 of 8

In addition to his efforts to bring about a gang truce, last year Price worked with the Reverend David Ferrell to hold a "1,000 Man" meeting at Friendship West Baptist Church. The meeting was to serve as a clarion call for African-American men to serve as better role models for children. Nearly 2,000 people showed up.

Ferrell has read the stories in the Morning News about his friend's excessive cell phone use but claims that's a product of the school board member's expansive view of his job.

"He reached into his pocket once and pulled out about 75 messages. He had a green paper clip on one set and another paper clip for another. He said, 'These people here are from my district, and these people are from outside my district.' I said, 'When do you breathe, when do you sleep?'"

In July 2000, Ferrell was providing marital counseling to Price and his new wife, Angelia Brown Price. The two had dated only eight months before they wed, and Price believed her to be a "Bible-toting, Scripture-quoting person," Price says. On the day they enlisted the help of Reverend Ferrell, Price's wife suddenly snapped, picked up her chair and threw it at her husband. She wasn't finished.

"I got in between them. She was hitting and punching at this point," Ferrell would later state in an affidavit.

Their marriage didn't exactly mellow, and a little more than a year later they sought counseling, on October 14, 2001, Price asked his wife for a divorce. As he tells it, she didn't take it well, and he left to visit his mother for her 60th birthday. When he returned, with a plate of fried chicken in his hand, the police arrived at his home and hauled him to jail on an assault charge.

Months later, a judge found Price guilty of a misdemeanor family violence charge and ordered him to pay a small fine after the school board member admitted to pushing back on a screen door as his wife was on the other side. He claimed she was trying to shove him out of their house as he was leaving with his niece. The judge asked him, point blank, "Did you bump her with the door?"

"Your honor, [I had a] 3-year-old niece in one hand, half my body out the door leaving, a charging woman pissed off, pushing the door on me telling me to get the fuck out, and I pushed the door back," Price recalls saying.

Price says he tried to appeal the case but filled out the wrong paperwork. (Price's former wife didn't return phone calls from the Dallas Observer.)

That one afternoon with his wife will likely haunt Price for the rest of his political career. During Price's last campaign, his enemies taunted him as a convicted wife beater, while the Morning News reminded voters of his bout with the wrong end of the law on the day of his election. But Price's ex-wife's own account of what happened, as detailed on the police report, is a little sketchy. She states that Price pushed the screen door while she was on the other side, causing her to fall backward. He then "pushed her on the chin," and she fell again. Then Price left. That's it.

It may be impossible to find out what really happened between them. For Price's supporters, the Morning News' treatment of his conviction on a seemingly dubious charge looks like it was part of an editorial agenda to remove him from office.

"We were aghast that they would keep bringing that up, and it goes back to the character assassination of Ron Price," says Jim Neale, an active Republican who worked on Price's re-election campaign and serves on the school board member's advisory council.

Price has other explanations for some of the charges that have dogged him over the past year, adding a touch of gray to the bold and broad swipes at his conduct from the local press. His $19,000 cell phone charges, which were featured on WFAA-Channel 8, the Morning News and blogger Allen Gwinn's site, stemmed from his belief that the trustee's cell phone plan was for unlimited minutes at a set rate. As a result, he gave out his number to parents, teachers and even students, telling them to call him anytime.

George Williams, who served on the board with Price for five years, concurs with his former colleague's explanation. "I was under the impression that we had a set rate for unlimited usage," he says.

But Gwinn, whose dallas.org has served as a veritable watchdog of DISD and Price himself, says he warned the school board member about his cell phone usage a year or so before the mainstream press broke the story. After running into each other at a meeting, they sat and talked. Price wanted to know why the local blogger had him on his radar. "I said, 'Here's one thing: Your cell phone bills are outlandish,'" Gwinn recalls. "He reassured me he only used his district phone for business. He claimed he had a personal cell phone, and I asked him to show it to me, and he claimed he left it in his car."

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Matt Pulle
Contact: Matt Pulle