DALLAS — Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price lost his cool Tuesday as supporters of ousted Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet criticized the court for letting him go.
The outburst occurred during the public speaking portion of the meeting as six Sherbet supporters addressed the court.
Sherbet, who served as the county's elections chief for 24 years, recently resigned after he said he was pressured by Price and newly-elected County Judge Clay Jenkins.
"Last month, a certain individual who has sat as a member of this honorable body for 26 years — whom I will simply refer to as the 'Chief Mullah of Dallas County' — attempted to exert his power over this county behind the scenes and in secret," said Jeff Turner, a GOP Precinct Chair who was among the citizens who addressed the court. "Well, he succeeded in only half his objective. He successfully ousted a competent, honest and highly and widely admired elections administrator, Bruce Sherbet."
Turner continued to refer to Price as the “Chief Mullah” during his three-minute speaking opportunity. Addressing individual commissioners is not allowed under court rules.
Merriam-Webster defines "mullah" as "an educated Muslim trained in religious law and doctrine and usually holding an official post."
"We see who places his quest for absolute power in his tribal area above moral and ethical principles," Turner said, as Price interrupted to say "I resent that."
"You want to talk to me, call my name," Price said. "Don't call me 'mullah.'"
After the confrontation, Turner talked to News 8 about the incident.
"The intent was to make this analogy that John Wiley Price, from what I can tell, is a man who has a quest for power and he wants to run Dallas County," Turner said.
The term 'Chief Mullah' was an analogy, Turner explained, describing Commissioner Price as a ruler similar to those in tribal lands in places like Afghanistan.
"Nothing gets done without their permission or knowledge, and frankly, I think that's how John Wiley Price wants to run Dallas County," Turner said. "Nothing will get done unless he consents to it or knows about it."
But the commissioner understood the word as "moolah," and said he considered it to be a racial slur.
A similar-sounding word was used by Italian-Americans against African-Americans in Spike Lee's 1989 film Do the Right Thing.
But if Price thought Turner used race overtly, the commissioner clearly injected race into the situation. As Price and Turner continued talking loudly over one another, Price yelled "Go to hell!" several times.
After Jenkins adjourned the meeting, Price asked, "Why are all the speakers white?"
Price squabbled with several people, questioning why only whites signed up to speak. At one point, Price called another citizen a "fat boy."
"All of you are white," he said to the citizens. "Go to hell."
Price told Sherbet's supporters to "go to hell" seven times.
As citizens and Price continued to argue, Jenkins asked them to take their conversation outside.
"[Turner] continued to use terms like 'tribal,' and his intent to make race an issue was obvious," Price said in a statement released later in the day. "My history and record will reflect that I am one whose tolerance is limited or non-existent when it comes to racial slurs."
"Would y'all be having this same conversation if he would have said N----?! What's the difference?," Price said Tuesday night.
News 8 tracked down the commissioner after he attended an event by Spike Lee who just happened to be speaking at the Nasher Sculpture Center.
The commissioner remains unapologetic.
When asked if he had any regrets about telling the six white speakers to "go to hell," Price said he had none.
Filmmaker Spike Lee sidestepped the controversy and did not speak with reporters Tuesday night.
Turner insists Commissioner Price still took words in his speech out of context.