Whose Oath is it Anyway? Commissioners Promise to Bow Out of Business Interests, Except One

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Does an oath of office stand for anything nowadays? Ashley Stanley wonders in her latest column on the John Wiley Price public corruption trial.

By Ashley Stanley
Special Contributor

Your Honor, May I Approach The Witness?

I promised a commenter on the last blog post I would attend the trial and report back, so I did. And on that note, I gave my word. Does that mean anything anymore? Can someone say one thing and do another? I digress.

I entered the courtroom at 8:55 Wednesday morning and a witness was being questioned by a federal prosecutor. He was asked if a certain number was a unique identifier for a Bank of America employee. The witness replied, “Yes, this is a current employee in Delaware at a processing center.” The number was tied to a check recorded for an account ending in 6603 sent from Dallas to Atlanta to Delaware by mail.

The government’s exhibit 666 was referenced as the front of a check from Kathy L. Nealy & Associates on 11/23/2009 for $1,623.75. I’m still piecing together what I’m hearing, but that’s not a good exhibit number to write down as my first one viewed in the case.

Federal prosecutor: “Your honor, I’d like to call Helena Webb to the stand.”

Ms. Webb is an associate with Ally Bank or Ally Financial previously branded as GMAC and has been employed there for one year. She explained that Ally Financial handles purchase contracts from dealerships. The prosecutor asked her to turn to government exhibit 653, but she couldn’t find it easily so the prosecutor requested to approach the witness.

Federal prosecutor: “Do you recognize this?”

Ms. Webb explained it was a transaction summary for a motor vehicle contract and confirmed it occurred during the normal course of business. The purchaser is Kathy L. Nealy & Associates for a 2010 Chevy Avalanche with the last four digits of the VIN ending in 1050.

The prosecutor drew Ms. Webb’s attention to exhibit 1176, but alerted the courtroom it was not admitted into evidence yet, so it was taken off the projected screen. The exhibit was confirmed by the witness and no objections were made by the defense, so additional checks were allowed by the judge into evidence.

I looked at my watch since they do not allow cellphones in the courtroom, and it was 9:07 a.m. I have a 10 a.m. meeting so I really need to leave by 9:10 a.m. Wait a second … is that Dwaine Caraway? OK, I’ll give it until 9:20.

I counted 10 people in the courtroom as observers and I make 11 with seven attorneys on each side. Is that Kathy Nealy and Dapheny Fain sitting next to each other on row two?

Federal prosecutor: “Ms. Webb, do you know Kathy Nealy?”

Ms. Webb: “No.”

Federal Prosecutor: “Nothing further, your honor.”

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn: “I have one final question. Are you old enough to have a driver’s license?”

The courtroom erupted in laughter. I am glad she can bring humor to such a tough trial. I thought that might be the perfect time to quietly leave, but then a new prosecutor called the current Commissioner Mike Cantrell for District 2. OK, it’s 9:25 a.m. I’ll give myself five more minutes.

With such a long standing history of public service to Dallas County, Mr. Cantrell was asked who has served longer. He replied, “Price is the only one.”

“Let’s talk about the oath of office,” replied the prosecutor. Upon discussing the duties to faithfully execute and follow all state and federal laws, it was brought up that there is actually an “additional oath” that asserts there is no financial interest from any county commissioner with the public contracts submitted to the county.

Prosecutor: “Is that considered old-fashioned to follow? Or rather, the oath should be taken seriously?”

Commissioner Cantrell: “Yes.”

The prosecutor asked if he had ever recused himself from a vote as it relates to this additional oath. He said, “Yes, a couple of times but I cannot recall the reasoning and several others have as well.” The prosecutor asked if Price ever recused himself. We all know the answer to that.

Commissioner Cantrell: “Price has never recused himself. Not to the best of my memory.”

It’s 9:30 a.m., and I have to go! The trial picks up on Monday, March 27, and I’m hoping to be on the media list by then. I filled out the media acknowledgement and agreement form, but the courtroom security officer said it may take a few days to process.

Look, I’m not an attorney. I’m not a journalist. I’m an urban single mother who lives in Precinct 3008, and my county commissioner is John Wiley Price. I’m a concerned citizen with an opinion and according to my Facebook cover photo, I’m going to speak my mind, even if my voice shakes.

8 Comment

  • Thank you for reporting on this. It’s not often that I hear about local happenings.

  • Pardon my asking, but what was the point of this post? What did you want us to conclude from your report of your brief visit to the U.S. Courthouse? You attended the trial for 35 minutes, and what did you get out of it? I mean, besides recognizing the celebrities in attendance.

    • Bob, I suppose the point was I promised a commentor from a previous post that I would attend the trial with what little time I had the night morning and report back. I held to my word.

      • This is what I get for replying too quickly with a toddler in my lap. Meant to type *commenter* and the *next* morning.

        The court was in session two and a half days this week. I attended the only time I had free. A day job, a toddler, and graduate school doesn’t leave much time to be an active community member, but I said I would, so I did … which I suppose my additional point was to highlight JWP’s oath of office.

        • I think you have way too much on your plate to try to report on or analyze John Wiley Price’s legal tangles. There is plenty of reporting of his trial available to the public–let others carry that burden, and just refer interested parties to those reports. With a day job, a toddler (another day job), plus graduate school, you may be trying to do too much. I don’t know your age, but I would guess that you will have plenty of years ahead for community activism and public service. I admire your intentions, but looking at all that you are trying to do just makes me tired.

          • Bob,

            Man oh man, how that statement rings true. Unfortunately, I’m a single parent and I realized this evening I am officially in what they call the “sandwich generation.” My mother and father are 70/73 respectively. I am doing all I know to do these days and it feels like treading water. Thanks for reading the post and your thoughts. I look forward to hearing more from you!

  • mm

    Bob there is a method to Ashley’s quick reporting: word on the street is a whole lot of politicians and political consultants are asking for higher doses of Xanex these days, wondering just what JWP might say about them! I think he actually has the seat of power so yeah, that name dropping: stay tuned!