Price Dismisses Kwanzaa Fest Report As "Baseless and Politically Motivated"

As Dallas County Judge Jim Foster told us February 15, after releasing the first of three reports as part of former FBI agent Danny Defenbaugh's investigation of the constables, the second report regarding Kwanzaa Fest alleges that approximately 49 deputy constables under Jaime Cortes and Derick Evans earned more than $15,000 while working at the event.

"We are doing something that is not permitted," Foster said this morning after handing us the report, referring to spending taxpayers' money on security for an event that is not sponsored or sanctioned by the county.

The 26-page document claims that at least 22 deputies were "intimidated and coerced" to provide security at Kwanzaa Fest and didn't receive compensation. It also includes an e-mail sent from a county computer promoting the event and said Commissioner John Wiley Price refused to cooperate with Defenbaugh's investigation by refusing to produce IRS documents.

Price held a press conference at his chair on the commissioners court to address the report, claiming the allegations within it were the first he'd heard of such activity.

"I refute all of what I consider to be baseless and politically motivated charges that have surfaced at the hands of the accidental county judge," he said.

Price explained that Kwanzaa Fest, which has been held annually at Fair Park for the past 16 years, has always had security provided by "numerous law enforcement personnel," including constables, officers from the sheriff's department, Dallas Police Department officers and others. It's required as part of its contract with the city, he stressed, but everyone works on a volunteer basis.

"No one, not any law enforcement security personnel, has ever been compensated financially or otherwise by Kwanzaa Fest," he said.

But what about him?

"No. Not a penny. Not a single penny," he said, adding that he's contributed to Kwanzaa Fest through his campaign (which we've verified) and personally.

Price referred to Danny Defenbaugh multiple times as "Defen ... whatever his name is" and criticized the report because the nonprofit information is available, although Price didn't comment on why he didn't provide Defenbaugh with the IRS reports.

"It's nothing short of ludicrous," he said of Defenbaugh's investigation. "And, as far as I'm concerned, [he] continues to fleece the county."

Price maintains that the matter is best left to District Attorney Craig Watkins, and he mentioned seeing deputy constables testifying at a recent grand jury hearing. We asked if Price thought the hearing and the Cortes report were related, to which he responded, "No."

More shots were taken at Foster, as Price said he aimed to "denounce outrageous claims by a handful of elected officials or operatives that are desperate over the fact that they haven't performed well in office and continue to use this as a portal to try to deal with what we consider to be a political axe to grind."

Foster says affidavits have been signed alleging that Price appeared at a Precinct 5 meeting with a mantra urging deputies to work at the event. But the judge balks at speaking in detail about the report, claiming it speaks for itself. "The public is going to arrive at their own conclusion."

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Sam Merten
Contact: Sam Merten