Judge: Commissioner Price is target of FBI probe

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by By CRAIG CIVALE / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on May 27, 2009 at 10:09 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 5:02 PM

FOSTER DEPOSITION

Craig Civale reports

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DALLAS - The head of the Dallas County Commissioners Court, Judge Jim Foster, revealed under oath that Commissioner John Wiley Price has been under an FBI investigation dating back to last fall.

It all centers around the huge inland port development in southern Dallas County.

Dallas County Commissioner Judge Jim Foster answered questions revolving around an alleged "shakedown" by Price during a deposition earlier this month.

"I am aware of investigation being conducted and I did not request the investigation," he told Mark Johnson, John Wiley Price's attorney, during the deposition.

JOHNSON: "By whom?"

FOSTER: "The FBI."

JOHNSON: "Did you speak to the FBI?"

FOSTER: "On many occasions."

JOHNSON: "About Commissioner Price?"

FOSTER: "On many occasions about Commissioner Price."

Foster said the FBI started contacting him last fall. He testified Richard Allen, the main developer, complained that Price was trying to force him to use local advisors to keep the project running smoothly.

FOSTER: "He had consistently encouraged him to use consultants; he refused to do so."

JOHNSON: "That Commissioner Price had requested that Richard Allen use consultants?"

FOSTER: "That's what he told me."

According to former city council member Bill Blaydes, who monitored the project, the consultants asked for $1.5 million and a 15 percent stake in the project.

WFAA-TV
A video image captures Judge Jim Foster answering questions at the deposition.

Foster was deposed because Price is considering whether to file a defamation lawsuit against him for comments he made in the Dallas Observer back in February. The judge is quoted as saying Price was involved in a"shakedown"of The Allen Group.

"I said to the reporter, 'There are peoplewho would say that he's involved in a shakedown,'" Foster said.

Foster defended his comments numerous times during the 45-minute deposition, which ended abruptly following dozens of objections and verbal sparring by attorneys.

The FBI will not confirm nor deny whether John Wiley Price is the target of an inquiry,

Both commissioners turned down News 8 requests to talk about the case, and Foster said it is not clear to him whether the investigation is still ongoing.

A FBI investigation itself does not indicate guilt or innocence.

The inland port is a sprawling distribution center for products being sold in North Texas.The industrial and warehousing center is located in southern Dallas County, which is in Price's district.

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