in Houston, Texas
Today's featured video: Dallas County commissioner tells citizens to 'go to hell' at meeting
Thursday, Feb 17, 2011, 10:14AM CST
By Jennifer Peebles
hell

This one got ugly.

A citizen derisively calls a Dallas County commissioner "chief mullah" of the county, and the commissioner fires back by telling the crowd to go to hell, calls a preacher in the audience "fat boy" and suggests they step aside to settle matters.

The clip from Tuesday's Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting from KTVT-TV Dallas is today's featured video on the Texas Watchdog home page.

The exchange is so testy that it's hard at first to understand what people were even arguing about. According to KTVT's story, some citizens were upset that the county recently lost its longtime elections administrator, and some felt Commissioner John Wiley Price had a role in pushing the man out the door.

Most government bodies I've covered allow people to get up at the mic before the group goes through its agenda -- heck, the Houston City Council gives Joe Citizen their own entire pre-meeting session, usually a day before the council meeting proper -- but apparently the Dallas County Commissioners Court takes public comment after it finishes with its agenda.

And so the last public speaker took the mic Tuesday evening and repeatedly referred to Price as "mullah." A mullah is an Islamic clergyman, and the first syllable, "mull," is properly pronounced to rhyme with "dull" -- but from the video and KTVT's report, the man kept pronouncing the word like "moo-lah," the slang term for money. Whatever it was, both parties knew it wasn't intended as a compliment, and Price later said he took it to be a racial slur. (You can also see the man speaking at the mic in this clip from KTRK-TV Houston.)

As the meeting broke up everyone got up to leave, Price addressed the crowd and tell them to "go to hell," and reiterated that command for a large man in the audience, whom he called "fat boy."

Price is a colorful character and a formidable presence on the commissioner's court in Dallas County, and the press there has for some time remarked on his "famous temper," such as this report from 2009, when Price fired off some profanity at commissioners who kept interrupting him.

***

See a good video clip on Texas government or politics, watchdog journalism or government accountability or transparency? Let us know. Texas Watchdog is always looking for good clips to feature on its home page. Shoot a note to jennifer@texaswatchdog.org

Art work: The lower half of the "hell" panel from Hieronymous Bosch's triptych "The Garden of Earthly Delights." Given that Bosch has been dead for 500 years or so, this work is in the public domain. If anyone would like to offer a guess on why hell would include huge musical instruments and a rabbit carrying a human corpse, Texas Watchdog welcomes your comments below.

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