DALLAS (CN) – The prosecution’s star witness testified Wednesday how indicted Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price would nudge companies who wanted his support on lucrative county contracts to hire political consultant and co-defendant Kathy Nealy, who allegedly passed on bribes to Price.
Christian Campbell, a political consultant, was indicted in 2014 with Price, Nealy and Price’s chief of staff Dapheny Fain in a massive federal bribery case.
Prosecutors accuse Price of taking more than $1 million in cash, cars and real estate from Nealy and others for his influence, inside information and votes on the Commissioners Court, then failing to report the bribes on state-mandated financial disclosure statements and his federal tax returns.
Price is being tried with Fain; Nealy will be tried separately.
Campbell told federal jurors during direct examination Wednesday that Price gave him and Nealy confidential bid information that helped his client, oil services firm Schlumberger, outbid other companies for a $40 million information technology contract in 2002. He said Schlumberger’s original bid was as high as $70 million before Price gave him information on where the bid ranked.
He testified that Nealy became confrontational if she believed Campbell’s clients were dragging their feet on paying her, often unleashing expletive-filled threats that she “could make things bad for them.” He said he believed Nealy was paying Price for influence, based on “the way she acted,” and the “comments, threats and suggestions” she made, and that she had the power to cancel contracts if she was not happy.
Campbell testified that Price urged him to hire his friends, and that Price wanted Campbell to hire one of his friends to help consult on Schlumberger’s bid. He said Price also wanted Schlumberger give a job to the daughter of state Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas.
Campbell said Price complained to Schlumberger for not paying Nealy after he wrote a recommendation letter to officials in Lee County, Florida, in support of the company’s bid on a contract there.
Prosecutors read to jurors letters written by Price that complained about her not being paid a success fee on the contract and her contract not being renewed.
Price’s attorney, Christopher Knox, of Dallas, disputed how much influence Nealy had on Price, getting Campbell to acknowledge during cross-examination that companies that hired Nealy did not always have the winning bid on county contracts.
Knox said that Price’s complaints to Schlumberger were more about holding the company accountable on promises to hire certain minority subcontractors.
Regarding one alleged bribe payment in particular, Knox said it was for an unrelated art sale, and that “art” was written in the memo section of the check.
Campbell pleaded guilty in 2015 to one count of bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits. He will receive a lighter sentence in exchange for testifying against the remaining defendants. Under the deal, Campbell admits that he willfully joined a conspiracy to bribe Price and that “paying Nealy and acceding to her demands literally bought” Price’s influence.
Campbell also testified in 2016 against former BearingPoint executive Helene Tantillo, who was sentenced to six months in federal prison.
His testimony helped convict her on two counts of making false statements to law enforcement. An Austin federal jury concluded she falsely told FBI agents that a temporary $10,000 increase in consulting fees paid to Campbell was going to a charity. Prosecutors in that case said the increase went to Nealy, regarding BearingPoint’s bid on a county records digitization contract in 2004.
Campbell gave more details about BearingPoint’s bid on Wednesday, testifying that Tantillo told him she wanted to hide the extra payments. He said that the day after he paid Nealy $7,500, she passed $2,500 to Price, who then got involved in the bid. Prosecutors in Tantillo’s case said that by this point BearingPoint had been rejected by a county selection committee as a bidder, but Price persuaded it otherwise and voted for the bid.