BREAKING: John Wiley Price arrested this morning

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DMN staff photo/2014

The ongoing legal battle centering on Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price took a new twist Friday morning when the FBI arrested the embattled incumbent at his home.

The Dallas Morning News reports that a sealed indictment was filed on Wednesday, citing Price for:

• Conspiracy to Commit Bribery Concerning a Local Government Receiving Federal Benefits

• Deprivation of Honest Services by Mail Fraud and Aiding and Abetting

• Conspiracy to Defraud the Internal Revenue Service

• Subscribing to a False and Fraudulent U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Price’s attorney Billy Ravkind said he learned of the arrest through media reports. “Next time we want to know something, we’ll call the press,” he told the DMN. “I guess I haven’t been around long enough. I’ve never had this happen before. You win or lose cases in the courtroom. What the government does is irrelevant.”

A press conference will be held at 11 a.m. at the at the Earle Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas.

This story is breaking. We will be updating readers throughout the day.

—  James Russell

Cantrell absent from Pride resolution

ResolutionWhen County Commissioner Elba Garcia presented her Pride month proclamation to the LGBT community last Tuesday, Commissioner Mike Cantrell quietly got up and left the horseshoe.

On Friday, Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell went to the county office building to pick up the proclamation. Three commissioners and County Judge Clay Jenkins signed the proclamation. Where Cantrell’s signature would have gone, the document is marked “absent.”

Funny he wasn’t absent five minutes earlier when the court honored an 18-year employee who was retiring from the county.

McDonnell checked on an earlier proclamation recognizing Resource Center’s anniversary. His signature appears there. Maybe he was just a little bit confused and thought Resource Center is where the gays went for their reparative therapy.

Or maybe he’s just the Vonceil Jones Hill of the commissioners court.

—  David Taffet

AHF opens STD clinic in North Dallas

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Bret Camp

AIDS Healthcare Foundation has opened an STD clinic at its North Dallas office.

AHF Texas Regional Director Bret Camp said the clinic is open twice a week to offer free STD testing. In addition to checking for HIV, tests will be given for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.

While Dallas has the highest rate of new HIV infections in the state, Camp said, Houston is ahead of Dallas with other sexually transmitted diseases. But STD rates in Dallas remain high and Camp encourages testing for them as well as for HIV.

Dallas County’s rate of chlamydia and gonorrhea increased while syphilis decreased over the previous year. Chlamydia was the most prevalent STD with 16,848 cases reported. Camp said these three STDs are all curable when caught in their early stages and much more difficult to treat if left undiagnosed.

Free testing is available at the AHF office at 7777 Forest Lane, Suite B-122 on the Medical City campus on Mondays from 3–7 p.m. and Thursdays from 3–6 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call 972-383-1066.

AHF has offices in Fort Worth and Dallas and is the largest provider of healthcare to people with HIV in the United States.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Dallas County passes 1st LGBT Pride Month resolution

LGBT advocates who attended Tuesday’s Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting gather on the steps of the administration building after the Pride resolution passed. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

LGBT advocates who attended Tuesday’s Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting gather on the steps of the administration building after the Pride resolution passes. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Dallas County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday declaring June LGBT Pride Month.

The resolution is the first of its kind for the county. The Dallas City Council has issued proclamations the past three years recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month.

Commissioner Theresa Daniel presented the resolution, reading it to the room before it passed. Commissioner Mike Cantrell, the only Republican on the five-member court, was absent from the meeting.

“On this special occasion, we must bear in mind that while we have overcome difficult obstacles, tolerance and acceptance is something we must all practice and teach future generations,” the resolution reads in part. (Read the full version here)

After its passage, activist Omar Narvaez then addressed the court with several LGBT supporters standing behind him. He spoke about the importance of the LGBT community having showing its Pride during June.

“It’s so appropriate that our symbol for the LGBT community is a rainbow because we are every single part, we are every fabric of that rainbow,” he said. “We are African-American, we’re Latino, we are white, we are Asian, we are Native American.”

—  Anna Waugh

Gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons champions new county courthouse

Gary Fitzsimmons

Gary Fitzsimmons

Dallas County’s openly gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons is hoping the Commissioners Court starts looking into a plan to replace the Frank Crowley Courts Building.

Fitzsimmons points to several flaws in design and layout of the building, as well as faulty hardware and cracking floors in a Dallas Morning News story.

But the estimated cost for a new building is $665 million, a price tag commissioners aren’t sure how they want to pay to replace the 24-year-old structure. Especially since more than $9 million is expected to be spent on repairs and renovations through 2016.

Fitzsimmons doesn’t expect the court to come up with a plan immediately, but he wants them to start thinking about how to solve the problems the building has had, including access points after a woman snuck into a jury room to address juror earlier this year and caused a mistrial.

“Travis County spent five to seven years studying a new Justice Center to meet the needs of the courts and voters approved $340 million in bonds to fund it,” Fitzsimmons wrote on Facebook above a link to The DMN story. “Travis enjoys a AAA S&P rating so this is not pie-in-sky. This is Dallas — we think big here and live large and I believe we should settle for nothing less than the finest court facilities and system in the state.”

Fitzsimmons, who was first elected in the Democratic sweep of 2006, is up for re-election in 2014.

—  Anna Waugh

Sheriff Valdez speaks at the Round-Up after being re-elected to 3rd term

Sheriff Lupe Valdez receives applause Tuesday night at The Round-Up Saloon after her victory had been declared. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

With results showing her well ahead of her Republican challenger, lesbian Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez declared victory at the Round-Up Saloon on Tuesday night.

With 330 of 1,000 precincts reporting, Valdez had 58 percent of the vote to Republican Kirk Launius’ 41 percent.

“I’m blessed, I’m honored and continually grateful for the progressiveness of Dallas County,” Valdez told Dallas Voice after addressing the crowd. “This has to be a very progressive county or they wouldn’t keep putting in someone like me continually.”

Admitting that her first term in office was a challenge, Valdez said she has proven herself as sheriff in the change she has brought to the department during her second term.

“It’s not the same department that I got when I went in there. It is totally different,” she said. “So, we’ve done a job of bringing about change. And change is never an easy thing to do. The first four years were quite a struggle but after the second term, things started to flow. We want to continue to build on the progress so we can continue doing a good job.”

—  Anna Waugh

BREAKING: Dallas County approves domestic partner insurance benefits


Derrick Spillman with DFW Pride Movement addresses the Dallas County Commissioners Court on Oct. 30, 2012. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The gay and straight domestic partners of Dallas County employees will soon be eligible for a $300 monthly subsidy from the county to help pay for health insurance.

The County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 along party lines Tuesday morning to offer the subsidy to employees who have same- or opposite-sex domestic partners who do not have insurance through other means. The subsidy will be equal to the amount the county contributes to an employee’s health insurance.

County Judge Clay Jenkins, and Commissioners Dr. Elba Garcia and John Wiley Price, who comprise the court’s Democratic majority, voted in favor of offering the domestic partner subsidy. Republican Commissioners Mike Cantrell and Maurine Dickey voted against it.

Commissioners made comments before several speakers addressed the court on the issue.

Dickey said the court shouldn’t fund a special group outside of the Public Employee Benefits Cooperative because its members didn’t approve it.

Jenkins and Garcia, who spearheaded the initiative, had initially hoped to offer domestic partner benefits through the PEBC, a multi-county partner agency, but other members — including Denton and Tarrant counties — would not allow it.

Dickey said approving benefits for domestic partners would lead to funding other special groups, such as obese people, smokers or people that have blue Pontiacs.

“We must stay within the realm of our group, of our PEBC, in order to offer our employees the best possible and lowest possible health insurance,” she said.

—  Anna Waugh

Republican commissioners speak out against domestic partner benefits

LGBT activist C.d. Kirven addresses the Dallas County Commissioners Court about the importance of offering domestic partner benefits Tuesday morning. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The two Republican members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court said they oppose a plan to offer domestic partner benefits to county employees on Tuesday, citing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

After the Commissioners Court was briefed on the plan, several speakers highlighted the issue of equality and the county’s need to be competitive to recruit and retain quality employees. The speakers were Cece Cox with Resource Center Dallas, Omar Narvaez with Lambda Legal, Travis Gasper with Equality Texas and C.d. Kirven with GetEQUAL TX.

Republican Commissioner Mike Cantrell then read a statement into the record, calling the plan part of a political agenda. He said the county should not offer the benefits because the federal and state government don’t recognize domestic partners.

“The county is an arm of the state government and as an elected official, my duties are bound to conform with legislation that dictates and defines what determines a legal union,” he said.

—  Anna Waugh

Dallas County weighs health-insurance vouchers for unmarried partners

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Commissioner Elba Garcia

A long-discussed proposal for Dallas County to offer health benefits to the partners of gay employees is finally taking shape.

The Dallas County Commissioners Court will be briefed on the domestic partner benefits plan Tuesday, according to an agenda posted online today.

The plan, detailed below, will provide benefits to both opposite- and same-sex domestic partners who do not have insurance provided to them through other means.

Commissioner Elba Garcia told Instant Tea that heterosexual domestic partners were added to prevent any perceived discrimination.

Garcia said the plan would offer subsidies to employees whose partners buy private insurance, and they would be refunded by the county the same amount the county pays for an employee’s insurance.

She said this was the only way to provide benefits outside of the county’s healthcare provider because the Public Employee Benefits Cooperative would not allow Dallas County to offer the benefits through the co-op.

Those who enroll will have to sign a domestic partner affidavit for Human Resources, as well as provide two forms of proof that they have lived together for six months, such as a lease agreement or joint bank accounts, Garcia said. She said partners must be at least 18 and not be married.

The projected cost is under $100,000, Garcia said.

Garcia said members of the court could suggest changes on Tuesday or it could be approved for a vote at the next meeting. Garcia, along with Commissioner John Wiley Price and County Judge Clay Jenkins, who make up the court’s Democratic majority, have said they support offering domestic partner benefits.

Gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons wrote a letter to the commissioners that will also appear on the briefing agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. The letter, below, states that “the provision of these benefits is a simple and clear issue of fairness that will make the county’s commitment to non-discrimination a reality for many of our employees.”

Fitzsimmons told Instant Tea that the plan isn’t ideal but what the best option to offer the benefits outside of the PEBC.

“Until such time that as the situation changes with the PEBC, this is an appropriate accommodation,” he said.

See the detailed plans below.

—  Anna Waugh

EQTX pushes for Dallas County commissioners to approve DP benefits

Equality Texas is calling on Dallas County citizens and employees to tell members of the Commissioners Court to approve offering domestic partner benefits to county employees.

The statewide LGBT advocacy group created an action letter that people can sign online and send to commissioners.

Equality Texas Interim Executive Director Chuck Smith said offering DP benefits has become a standard practice.

“It’s what people in the real world, real businesses in the real world, do in order to attract and retain good employees to where it’s not a big step,” he said. “It’s not going out on a limb for municipalities and counties to start doing this.”

Dallas County would become the third county to approve the benefits after Travis and El Paso counties.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia are working on a plan to offer the benefits despite the lack of support from a regional government partner agency. A Commissioners Court vote is expected in the next few months.

—  Anna Waugh