Complete coverage of the FBI Investigation of John Wiley Price

Embattled Commissioner Welcomes KwanzaaFest, Despite Corruption Probe

Commissioner says he expects record attendance at this year's event

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price prepared for KwanzaaFest on Friday night as he has for years.

    But this year, the cloud of an FBI bribery and money-laundering probe hangs over the annual event. KwanzaaFest was named in June search warrants served at Price's home and office in an FBI investigation of possible bribery and money laundering.

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    Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price says it's business as usual.

    Price has denied any wrongdoing.

    He said Friday that it is business as usual.

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    "Part of my duty as a county commissioner for my constituents in this community is that I continue to maintain, and I plan on doing that," Price said.

    KwanzaaFest started in 1990 as a community celebration with vendors and music.

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    Price said it has grown over the years to focus on heath care and medical screenings for people without insurance.

    Big companies have provided large contributions to support the event in the past, but Price admitted the sponsor list is smaller this year.

    "But we think the participants are going to be our largest group ever," he said. "The response from the community has been just overwhelming."

    An independent audit of KwanzaaFest finances conducted by Price's defense team shows that all of the charity money was properly used, said Price's attorney, Billy Ravkind.

    "It's bull; it really is," Ravkind said about the KwanzaaFest doubts.

    "The medical benefits it provides to people who can't afford it are enormous," he said. "You're talking about a million dollars."

    But Ravkind said much of that amount is in "in kind" -- services from medical sponsor groups, not cash.

    "[If] you had all the money from KwanzaaFest, you wouldn't be a real rich man," Ravkind said.

    Betty Culbreath, a challenger for Price's county commission seat in next year's Democratic primary, said she is amazed at the size of the KwanzaaFest budget.

    Culbreath was Price's chief aide in the early years of the event and is also the former Dallas County health director.

    "There is still the question of what happens to the dollars," she said.

    Culbreath said much of the medical services are provided with government grant money, so the charity fundraising should not be so large. She said she believes Price should stay away from the event because of the investigation.

    "Having it with you the front person, again, under this cloud, is the question," Culbreath said.

    Price said he has had political opponents before.

    "The seat doesn't belong to me, the seat belongs to the community," he said. "This event belongs to the community, and the community will decide who will occupy the seat."

    KwanzaaFest will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Fair Park Automobile Building.


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