Now, Complaints of Excessive Decorum at Commissioners Court - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Complete coverage of the John Wiley Price Trial

Now, Complaints of Excessive Decorum at Commissioners Court



    One week after an unruly meeting, Dallas County commissioners and speakers both said the pendulum swung too far the other way Tuesday.

    Last week, Commissioner John Wiley Price told a group of white speakers to "go to hell” after one of them referred to him as the "chief mullah of Dallas County."

    The shouting match ended the meeting early and abruptly.

    County Judge Clay Jenkins, who presides over Commissioners Court meetings, was criticized for failing to control the speakers in the first place.

    Demonstrators Demand Decorum and Respect

    [DFW] Demonstrators Demand Decorum and Respect
    Dallas County Commissioners approve new decorum policy against personal remarks.
    (Published Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011)

    Tuesday morning, demonstrators were outside the County Administration Building to protest Price’s behavior at last week's meeting.

    But just as many people who attended the meeting said they supported Price and were anxious to praise him for standing up to what he considered racism.

    A mullah is usually defined as an educated Muslim trained in religious law and doctrine. Price, the sole black commissioner, said he thought the term in that context was racist.

    Commissioners approved a tougher decorum police Tuesday that forbids public speakers and commissioners from making personal comments about anyone.

    When public speakers lined up to address commissioners, Jenkins interrupted nearly every one of them with a warning about their comments.

    Some speakers were ordered to return to their seats for breaking the rules, and some spectators were asked the leave the room for clapping.

    "We were absolutely censored," speaker Beth Biesel said. "I think it was wrong. I think it's unconstitutional."

    Price and Jenkins had no apologies.

    "You wanted decorum, you got decorum," Price said.

    "Unless the policies are relaxed, I'll follow the law," Jenkins said. "I've taken a sworn duty to enforce the law."

    But Commissioner Mike Cantrell said the new rules went "way too far." He said there should be a middle ground that allows citizens to speak while also maintaining order.

    "Hopefully it will get corrected," he said. "You can clamp down too hard to where it's not even worth anybody coming down here."