DALLAS - Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told News 8 he was never a target of the federal investigation into Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, and he's disappointed his political consultant is accused of paying off Price in exchange for his political endorsement.
"The FBI came one other time and asked me one other question,” Rawlings said. “I clarified that information and that's all the conversations I've had."
Rawlings paid his political consultant, Kathy Nealy, $270,000 last year to help get out the vote in South Dallas. Of that, $15,000 went to pay ministers for their endorsement.
Veteran political consultant Lorlee Bartos told News 8 in an interview last year paying for votes is problematic.
"They sit through a service and the minister will say our good friend so-and-so is here, and he's running for mayor,” Bartos said. “It shouldn't cost any money.”
Nealy is being accused in court filings of paying kickbacks to her most prominent client, long-time Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
When they raided his home last June, federal agents found $230,000 in cash in Price's safe.
The feds now allege on April 21, 2011, Nealy deposited a $25,000 check from the Rawlings campaign into her account. The next day, the feds say she wrote a $5,000 check to herself. Then on April 30, 2011, Commissioner Price deposited the check and pocketed $2,500 for himself.
The next day, May 1, Price endorsed Rawlings for mayor.
"I'm disappointed, because we hired Kathy Nealy to do grassroots marketing,” Rawlings said.
The mayor said the allegations and implications are disturbing.
"Any work that she did besides that, we didn't endorse," Rawlings said. "We had nothing to do with it.”
Yet News 8 has learned the consultant hired by Rawlings to do the same job as Nealy in North, East and West Dallas, was paid a total of $60,000. Again, Rawlings paid Nealy $270,000.
“We paid her a fair price - what was agreed to at the beginning of the campaign, and she had a lot of expenses for that," Rawlings said.
While Mayor Rawlings feels he's in the clear, Nealy is very much the target of a complex corruption investigation that could still be months from any official criminal charges.