Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
Aaron McCarthy was a founding member of the New Black Panther Party and has an arrest record for protesting, but the county judge says proposed changes to background checks aren't because of him.
Dallas County commissioners will consider expanded background checks for county appointees in the wake of revelations that a community activist with an arrest record was serving on a Homeland Security Advisory Committee.
Aaron McCarthy, a founder of the New Black Panther Party in Dallas, was arrested at demonstrations in the 1990s.
McCarthy was nominated by County Commissioner John Wiley Price and was up for reappointment, but the vote was delayed last week.
"It's politics," Price said. "Again, I still say, take his record and lay it beside everybody else."
County Judge Clay Jenkins said he wants county commissioners to disband the committee but not because of McCarthy.
"The committee is redundant," he said. "It’s time-consuming. It's an anomaly to Dallas County. The other counties don't have it, and it's wasting taxpayers time and money, and it's not adding any value."
County Commissioner Maurine Dickey opposes returning McCarthy to the committee, but said the committee should be preserved to help recruit public safety resources from the private sector.
"Personally, I think the judge should not go underground," she said. "I think it's important to have the citizens involved -- not elected officials, but the citizens of Dallas County."
As county judge, Jenkins has already used his authority over homeland security to begin background checks on volunteers and appointees involved in that area of county government, he said.
Commissioner Elba Garcia suggested expanding background checks to all volunteer appointees to county boards and committees.
She said the city of Dallas already checks appointees for criminal history and to guard against possible conflicts of interest in public business.
Commissioners are expected to vote next week on disbanding the Homeland Security Advisory Committee but will study expanding the use of background checks on additional appointees.