While we admire Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price’s eclectic taste in cars—his 13 vehicles include seven collector cars, among them a 1989 Lotus, 1968 Toronado, 1940 Ford, 1971 Monte Carlo and 1971 LTD — the Dallas Morning News has raised questions about how he obtained them.
It started in late 2007, after he traded in his 2003 Aston Martin on a 2005 Bentley Continental GT. Price discovered the Bentley was, technically, hot: The previous owner never held legal title, and was in fact wanted for embezzlement. Price, however, knew what to do: arrange a special administrative hearing with Dallas County tax officials.
According to the Morning News, “The informal hearings — conducted by clerical staff in counties across Texas — receive no outside scrutiny or oversight. Tax collectors have complete authority to rule as they see fit, regardless of the evidence.” The hearings are usually closed to the public, often one-on-one, and completely off the record.
While the process exists for a valid reason, the lack of transparency is troubling, especially when it concerns a figure in a position of influence like Price. This is at least the sixth car he’s acquired through a hearing, four on the same day in 2007. The Bentley hearing arose when the Texas DOT refused to issue a title, citing a complete lack of any record of ownership — no invoice, receipt or affidavit was presented. Nevertheless, mere possession and Price’s word was enough for Tax Assessor-Collector David Childs. On February 1, 2008, Price was granted title to the Bentley, and paid sales tax on the $41,700 value of the vehicle that remained after the $86,300 trade-in for the Aston.