Complete coverage of the FBI Investigation of John Wiley Price

Commissioners Call for Changes After Contract Controversy

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Tuesday, Aug 16, 2011  |  Updated 6:59 PM CDT
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A communications company named Wai Wize was named in search warrants for the FBI corruption investigation of Commissioner John Wiley Price.

Ken Kalthoff, NBCDFW.com

A communications company named Wai Wize was named in search warrants for the FBI corruption investigation of Commissioner John Wiley Price.

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Dallas County leaders are demanding changes in how the county contracts with outside businesses because of controversy over a communications company that was named in an FBI probe of Commissioner John Wiley Price.

Wai Wize and its CEO, Willis Johnson, were both named in FBI search warrants served on Price in June. The search warrants say the government is seeking evidence about possible corruption.

On Tuesday, county commissioners questioned their staff about the county's business with Wai Wize.

One deal with the company lasted eight years and was for communications equipment and services at the Dallas County Health Department.

Director Zach Thompson said the county needed a satellite system that would be used for communication in the event of a disaster knocking out land phone lines.

"Most of Dallas County at that point did not have a redundant communication system in place," he said.

But the contract with Wai Wize was canceled last year when county commissioners said the bills were excessive.

Commissioner Maurine Dickey said other vendors told her the county should have paid a fraction of what it did.

"It ended up being $651,000 that we spent with one company, and we never had any competitive bids," she said.

Price had documents that disputed Dickey's claims.

Staff members said a committee of county officials reviewed the initial deal.

"The committee felt it was justifiable to go with the higher cost for the equipment and services that were provided," said Shannon Brown, assistant court administrator.

Thompson said the contract was renewed several times because the company offered support for services that the county did not have the staff to provide.

"We did our due diligence to make sure we brought competent people forward to do the work, and they performed the work, and I have no doubt about that," he said.

But County Judge Clay Jenkins said he wants changes in future deals. He took office in January, after the contract had already been canceled.

"I would like for you to quickly work up a plan to say that when we have these no-bid sort of personal service contracts, we know exactly how much we're paying people by hour and delineate in detail exactly what they're doing," he said.

Johnson did not return a message Tuesday.

Price declined to discuss the issues in greater detail after the public meeting.

Federal officials have declined to discuss their investigation.


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