Last night, after that town hall meeting, I spotted Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price standing alone outside the Harold Wendell Lang Middle School. I approached him, because the commissioner had been ducking my calls and e-mails for a couple months, and I had some business to transact with him.
As soon as I got up in his face, the commissioner started shouting, "Skunk! Skunk!" and holding his nose.
My good buddy, school board member Ron Price, standing a few feet away, called to a Dallas cop who was nearby: "Hey, we need some pest control over here."
The police officer approached genially and asked what the problem was. I said, "Oh, nothing. I'm actually the commissioner's favorite reporter."
The officer said, "If you say so," and moved away.
I went back to Price. I should tell you what it's about.
I have written about some guys who call themselves the SALT Group. In 2005, they
approached the Allen Group, the major developers of Dallas's "Inland Port" shipping hub, and proposed to act as their political and government affairs consultants in Southern Dallas. The members of the group were Dallas businessmen Pettis Norman and Willis Johnson and a guy named Jon Edmonds, whom I do not know.
In exchange for their services, they asked The Allen Group to give them $1.5 million and a "15 percent equity" in the company, whatever that meant. The Allen Group didn't like the approach much and said no.
Beginning soon after, Commissioner Price opposed The Allen Group on a series of governmental issues important to the development and started showing up at public meetings shouting, "Equity! Equity!"
I have been trying to get the commissioner to talk to me about his relationship with the Allen Group. He's close to Willis Johnson, who is Mayor Tom Leppert's political consultant for dealing with black people. In fact, last night's community meeting was a Willis Johnson shindig, arranged by him for Leppert.
Price could tell me any number of things, anything he cares to tell me. He could say he's never heard of the SALT Group deal. He could say his demand for "equity" had nothing to do with SALT Group's request for equity in the Inland Port. I would report whatever he said.
But you see how it goes. I have asked and asked, and he won't say anything. The more he doesn't talk, the more I think I have to keep asking.
So last night while I stood in front of him, Price made a big deal of sticking his fingers up both nostrils to indicate that there was a bad smell. He refused to look at me. Ron Price stood off at a distance giggling like a girl.
I said to John Wiley Price, "So what about you and the SALT Group?" No response. Fingers up nose. "Some day we got to talk about it. Just about what's your relationship with them."
Looking away, fingers in nose.
I said, "Pettis. Those guys. Can't talk it, eh? Won't talk."
Now looking in other direction, pinching nose.
I said, "All right. I just wanted to make sure I gave you the opportunity, and we both agree that I approached you, and I asked you about it and gave you a chance to talk about it. I hope you'll remember that, that I did give you every opportunity."
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Fingers up nose again.
I said, "Thanks very much," and walked to my car.
Sheesh. Why do I sometimes feel like I'm back on the playground in elementary school?