“Concerned Employees” Speak: Enough Is Enough

By Larry Landaker, Publisher, PECTruthwatch

DiscontentPECTruthwatch received an anonymous letter this week from PEC “Concerned Employees”. We chose not to publish this letter until it was determined to be authentic. The letter was signed, “Very concerned employees who give it our best, day in and day out, and desperately want a board of directors that stays in their lane!”

It is unknown who authored the letter or whether it was written by one employee or several. What is known with absolute certainty is that the letter contains inside knowledge of PEC and was conveyed to the entire board of directors. It reads like a cry for help. Clearly, emotions among many PEC employees remain raw from events over the last 6 months. It also appears that the board is tone deaf to employee attitudes in the summer of their discontent.

PECTruthwatch readers will now have the opportunity to read this letter in its entirety and judge for themselves here:

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Among other things, the letter accuses James Oakley and Board President Emily Pataki of using PEC as a stepping stone for higher political gain at the expense of the best interests of the employees and members.

But the letter more vigorously attacks Mr. Oakley. He is criticized for ginning up publicity on his own behalf (to the detriment of the cooperative’s public image and reputation). He is once again admonished for his “time for a tree and a rope” comment, calling his apology, “feeble”.

“An apology is something you say or write in order to tell someone that you are sorry you have hurt them or caused trouble for them. It is not up to you to decide whether or not an apology is sufficient and should be accepted. That is left up to the people who felt hurt by the comments.” 

Much of the letter expresses concerns over the question of who will succeed Mr. Hewa. The board, it appears, is giving consideration to filling the position internally. The letter suggests that no candidate from management within is qualified…that the upper management pool is full of distrust and dysfunction.

In closing, the letter calls upon the board to rebuild its public image, to quit disparaging the former CEO and to formally assess its own performance.

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Oakley Implies Other Factors at Play in Hewa Exit

By Larry Landaker, Publisher, PEC Truthwatch

editorialJames Oakley surely believes he is a clever man, perhaps too clever by half. Today, an Oakley bombshell that landed in the Austin American Statesman may hold financial implications for PEC.

http://www.mystatesman.com/business/pec-director-disputes-claim-that-retaliation-led-ceo-resign/EQhJ4Vm4pUXnzOSkjAbgNK/

Readers will recall that last May PEC’s CEO, John Hewa, resigned in protest, alleging that he and other employees were retaliated against by board members for objecting to Mr. Oakley’s now-infamous “time for a tree and a rope” Facebook comments. Those were serious charges. In the face of Mr. Hewa’s accusations and, according to an article in the Austin American Statesman on July 13,  Hewa accepted $1.1 million in separation pay, characterized in the story as “leave quietly” money.

oakleymug

James Oakley

As far as anyone knows, Mr. Hewa has gone quietly. He must have been surprised to see the amount of his separation pay published in the newspaper. There was, presumably, a customary confidentiality agreement to which he has apparently adhered. Such an agreement would typically bind the parties to silence about the deal. Any breach of such an agreement can open the parties to litigation and such litigation would expose the co-op to further financial risk. While it appears certain that Mr. Hewa has not breached the confidentiality agreement, it is less clear about PEC.

Apparently stung by accusations that he, Mr. Oakley, led the retaliation efforts against Mr. Hewa, Oakley apparently reached out to the Austin American Statesman yesterday in an effort to plant a different spin on the story. According to the Statesman, Oakley implied that “other factors” were at play in Hewa’s exit. Unprompted by Statesman reporter, Bob Sechler, Oakley blurted out the following:

“I am not authorized to comment on the performance of former CEO John Hewa. He then declined to elaborate saying, “It’s up to the reader to imply what they want” from the comment. Wow. Very clever. Just as the famous rhetorical question goes, “when did you stop beating your wife?”

Oakley’s carefully crafted quote amounted to nothing more than a loaded comment, a rhetorical device meant to draw the reader toward an intended conclusion–in this case that Mr. Hewa left the cooperative under a cloud of questionable performance. Mr. Oakley’s sophistry permits him to walk away and deny that he meant any such thing. So he thinks. Perhaps it is up to Mr. Hewa and his attorneys to imply what they want.

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Former CEO John Hewa

During Mr. Hewa’s tenure on the board, PEC’s performance was measured by a “best practices” list of performance metrics. Under Mr. Hewa’s tenure, those metrics consistently showed PEC performance improving, growing, exceeding, etc. in nearly every category. Those are immutable facts. PEC, under John Hewa, excelled. The result was reduced debt, lower rates and better service for the members. During this period, one could hear Mr. Oakley speak in praise of Mr. Hewa, publicly and behind the scenes.

Mr. Hewa considers his high professional and personal reputation to be sacrosanct. With no apparent impulse control, Mr. Oakley chose today to publicly impugn Mr. Hewa’s reputation.

Hewa never wanted a fight with Mr. Oakley or PEC. He was, in fact its leader and he shared with some that he could imagine retiring there. He hoped to continue to build PEC into a better, stronger cooperative. He never imagined that an elected cooperative board member would utter such words but when Mr. Oakley did, Mr. Hewa attempted to separate those words from the values of PEC and defend the African American employees who rose to speak in righteous protest.

Everyone–members, John Hewa, the tattered reputation of the board, the long-suffering employees–all have paid a big price for those 7 words.

 

Further Fallout for Oakley: Accused of Misleading State Commission on Judicial Conduct

By Larry Landaker, Publisher of PECTruthwatch

oakleymug

James Oakley

PEC Board member James Oakley, who also serves as the Burnet County Judge, finds himself back in the news this week as a new complaint has been filed against him with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Readers of PEC Truthwatch will recall that it was this commission that, less than two months ago, disciplined Mr. Oakley for his Facebook post, “time for a tree and a rope”…reference to a black man accused of killing a San Antonio police officer.

According to the July 21, Austin American Statesman, a complaint, filed by Johnson City attorney John Watson, seeks the ouster of Mr. Oakley as Burnet County Judge.  Watson’s complaint alleges that Oakley gave “false and misleading testimony under oath” when he appeared before the commission last April .

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PEC Member and Attorney John Watson Johnson City, TX

“Judge Oakley provided to the Commission a narrative embellished by a pattern of deceptive, misleading and false statements,” Watson says in his new complaint. “It is intolerable that an elected official, especially one entrusted with judicial duties, would seek to mislead the very entity charged with the responsibility of hearing and deciding complaints of official misconduct by judges.”

The full Statesman article is here:

http://www.mystatesman.com/business/new-complaint-against-pec-director-wake-tree-and-rope-post/k4XiQtgNW3YzadA62rJoVM/

PEC Truthwatch has obtained the full text of Mr. Watson’s complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Review here:

Oakley- July 17- Complaint (1)

Two excerpts are cited here:

I. False, non-factual, deceptive or misleading statements by Judge
Oakley
“Testimony – Judge Oakley stated flatly, regarding the 18 complaints
filed with the Commission, that “None were from Burnet County
(residents).” He made this claim at least twice in his testimony.
Actual facts – At least 5 of the 18 complaints were filed by residents of
Burnet County, information one would have thought it easy for Judge
Oakley to ascertain. (Names available on request)”

“Narrative purpose – To bolster his claim that the people complaining
about his Facebook Post were outside agitators, mostly PEC members
who disagreed with his political views, and are not representative of his
constituents in Burnet County.”

II. Claim for extra compensation based on judicial duties

“In both 2015 and 2016 Judge Oakley filed an affidavit with the State
of Texas stating that he spent more than 40% of his time on judicial
duties. As a result he received extra compensation of $25,000 per
year in addition to his regular compensation as County Judge.
He was questioned about this by Counsel at the April 5 hearing and
acknowledged that he had indeed filed the affidavits. He stated that he
handled “250 probate cases last year (2016) I think.”
Throughout his testimony he stressed that his judicial duties were
minimal. He even stated that he never considered himself a judge, but
was more of an administrative officer involved in budgets and the like.
Never wore a robe. Hears only uncontested probate cases and some
guardianship matters. Had probate duties thrust on him unbidden when
the County Court–at-Law Judge had a heart attack about two months
after he took office. Then he just kept the function.
There is good reason to believe that the affidavits filed by Judge Oakley
do not square with the facts. First, I personally checked with the Probate
Clerk of Burnet County on July 14, 2017, and was told that the actual
number of probate hearings held in calendar year 2016 was 203. That is
substantially fewer than the 250 claimed by Judge Oakley in his
testimony. Second, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S.
the standard work year is considered to be 2,080 hours. To spend at least
40% of one’s time on judicial matters would work out to be just a bit
more than 800 hours. Even if one hour was spent on each uncontested
case, known to be highly unlikely by anyone familiar with that process, it
would mean that in 2016 Judge Oakley spent at most 203 hours on the
only judicial duties he repeatedly said he performed. Even if one adds in
another few hours for the seven guardianship hearing or matters you
don’t get much above 200 hours. To put in 800 hours would mean
spending, on average, 16 hours per week, or, put another way, two full
days. The implausibility of that is evident on its face and from the
repeated testimony of Judge Oakley himself who repeatedly sought to
minimize his judicial duties.
It is hard to see how the affidavit Judge Oakley filed for 2016 can be
viewed as anything other than factually incorrect and misleading.”

 

 

 

The High Cost of a Tree and a Rope

editorial and opinionBy Larry Landaker, Publisher of PEC Truthwatch

Information about former CEO John Hewa’s recent departure from PEC has been made public by the Austin American Statesman. According to an article published today,  Mr. Hewa was apparently paid handsomely to “leave quietly”.

“The former chief executive of Pedernales Electric Cooperative was recently awarded an estimated $1.1 million to leave quietly in May, the American-Statesman has learned, on the heels of a dramatic board meeting in which he announced his intent to resign and accused board members of retaliating against employees who spoke out against perceived racism at the electric utility.”

Link to the entire article is found below:

http://www.mystatesman.com/business/sources-former-pec-leader-got-million-when-left/1X04HxlKhsPCsvBCHsYVBI/?ref=cbTopWidget

pec john hewa 3

Former CEO John Hewa

It is clear from this story that Mr. Hewa’s departure remains a sensitive matter for the Board of Directors who authorized the settlement. Neither the Board President, Emily Pataki, nor the Acting CEO, Tracy Golden, would comment for the Statesman story. Furthermore, the Board appeared to have no intention of providing its member-owners with details concerning the settlement sum until next year when the cooperative would be forced to disclose it as part of its IRS 990 filing. So much for transparency.

There is good reason why this subject remains a sensitive matter. It is a near-certainty that the Board would not wish to link the cost of Mr. Hewa’s “go quietly” money to its own board member, James Oakley. It was Mr. Oakley who started a chain of events, ultimately leading to Mr. Hewa’s departure. It was Mr. Oakley who uttered the viral-bound words, “time for a tree and a rope” on his personal Facebook page in reference to an accused African-American suspect in the killing of a San Antonio police officer.

Nor would the board wish to acknowledge the highly avoidable cost of their own fiduciary failure in protecting the cooperative’s best interests. Instead, they dithered and  chose to protect one of their own, Mr. Oakley.  When they finally got around to giving Mr. Oakley a slap on the wrist by removing his title as board vice president, Oakley allegedly set about on a vendetta against Mr. Hewa and against the employees who protested against Mr. Oakley’s comments.

$1.1 million to go quietly. Perhaps the board was lucky. Mr. Hewa, no doubt, chose to protect his family and good reputation and move on with what will undoubtedly be a bright future. His settlement was probably a pittance when measured against the ultimate legal and financial exposure PEC faced at the hands of James Oakley. Employers cannot punish employees for making discrimination or harassment complaints or participating in workplace investigations. To do so, if proven, violates PEC’s own workplace policies, not to mention state and federal law.

And where is PEC today? It’s reputation once again is in tatters, not because of its dedicated rank and file employees, but because of the actions of those at the top.

Was it worth it?

 

Single Member Districts Revisited

pec-guestopinion

Single Member Districts Revisited

by Richard Golladay, PEC Member

It has been almost eleven months since the now-corrupt PEC board voted (without member consent) to adopt Single Member Districts for the Co-op.  The Board members who forced this upon the Co-op were Emily Pataki, Paul Graf, Amy Akers, Jim Powers, and James Oakley.  The pre-designed goal which this achieved is to create a voting system that ensures the most well-financed and wealthy candidates win all future Board elections (financed, of course, by energy special interests).

Richard Golladay

Richard Golladay

Four of these Board members, when they were running for office, employed mass mailings of campaign flyers.  It is instructive to note that in none of Power’s, Graf’s, Aker’s, or Oakley’s mailed out election campaign flyers was the platform of “Single  Member Districts” ever mentioned.  Not  once that I can find.

Yet, during the August 19, 2016 meeting in which this issue was forced upon us, in what was most certainly a pre-orchestrated justification (Graf and  Powers sounded like dual recordings of a pre-rehearsed song) you would conclude this issue was a major one from the day they began to solicit signatures to  get on the ballot.

But just why did such an impassioned and noble “ideal” require a  later “coming  out” to  be  revealed? Why hide from the members what you really think, until after you’re elected?  And then force it on them (without their consent)?

It appears they’ve always owned this agenda – a hidden agenda that  wouldn’t sell with most PEC members.  (Indeed, it was voted down twice back when all members were allowed to vote.)  Was it an agenda they were solicited and coached to perform – under the radar, until a  super-majority could be achieved?  An agenda defined by some of their financiers: the “Texans  for  Affordable  Electric Rates” and “American Reform Coalition” energy/political cartel?  An agenda defined by an anti-PEC political machine, most visibly represented by  Republican politicians Tony Dale and Paul Workman?

You decide, PEC member.  But remember: Never evaluate a politician by what he says before an election, but by what he does afterward.  Mark it down: With politicians there’s almost always an overlying spoken facade which baits people, but the real agenda is only revealed later.

We don’t want or need politicians for District Directors at PEC, but men and women bent on serving ALL our members, in ALL our Districts, and upholding the seven Cooperative principles.

Are these Board members really servants to all of PEC’s members, or are they only hireling politicians serving an outside agenda destructive to PEC?  You decide.

Emergency Meeting Called for 1pm Today. CEO John Hewa Fate To Be Decided

developing_storyby Larry Landaker

An emergency meeting of the PEC Board of Directors has been called for 1pm today. The meeting is expected to open in public with member comments. The board will then likely go into executive session to consider two actions:

  1. Consideration and action on CEO agreement
  2. Resolution and possible action to fulfill CEO duties

There are many questions in these two items. It is known that attorneys working for PEC were authorized to deal with the personnel matter concerning John Hewa. Presumably today’s meeting will culminate in a settlement of some kind whereby Mr. Hewa steps down as CEO and the board appoints a temporary or permanent successor.

There is no secret that Mr. Hewa is leaving because of Mr. Oakley.What is not known is what the cost of such an agreement will be to the members. At some point it becomes known to members through disclosure on the IRS form 990. Why should members have to wait?

It is also unknown whether the board intends to appoint an “acting” CEO or whether a permanent appointment is imminent. If the board appoints a permanent replacement without seeking public input from member stakeholders, that action would be unprecedented.

Speculation over Mr. Hewa’s presumed departure have been documented on PECTruthwatch. If Mr. Hewa leaves it is no secret that he is doing so because of Director James Oakley and the failure of the Board to place boundaries on his insatiable hunger for power and control. In essence, Mr. Hewa believed he was no longer able to function in an environment where stated Board policy against the retaliation of employees had occurred. Board Member James Oakley’s, “time for a tree and a rope” Facebook post has caused enormous controversy, hurt and anger over the last few months, both publicly and within PEC.  Oakley was publicly reprimanded by the Texas Commission on Judicial Review and ordered to take additional continuing education and sensitivity training.

For months, Mr. Hewa has been left to manage this firestorm.

Tone Deaf PEC Board May Sacrifice Hewa to Protect Oakley

By Larry Landaker

“My continued service as CEO has become impossible because of this situation. I am in the process of providing the board details.”

“Personally witnessed retaliation”

“Conditions for some of our key employees in the organization have become untenable because of the conduct of the board. Those of us who spoke up to support minority employees and to object to racially insensitive comments were assured that retaliation would not occur. This has not been the case,”

“Board response to concerns of employees has been ‘inappropriate.”

___John Hewa

hewa

CEO John Hewa

Whether John Hewa has actually tendered his resignation at PEC is unknown. The cooperative is officially silent other than to confirm that Mr. Hewa has not resigned. External communication on the matter has apparently been placed on lockdown.

Whether Mr. Hewa resigns or is fired, he is clearly on his way out the door. At the board meeting on Monday, May 15, Mr. Hewa spoke briefly before he was cut off by Board President Emily Pataki,  who claimed Hewa’s comments were “not accurate” and that Hewa “should not be speaking on these matters.”

Hewa accused board members of retaliating against employees for speaking out against Board Member James Oakley’s, “time for a tree and a rope” comment widely reported around the world last November.

Video and a published story in the Austin American Statesman, Thursday, May 18, 2017 is found here:

http://www.mystatesman.com/business/pedernales-ceo-says-plans-resign-cites-board-retaliation/ZkVwNuvTW69Sx9Mu9gHpvM/

Hewa’s departure would be considered an enormous loss by most employees and PEC members. Widely respected in the utility industry and hired by a unanimous majority in 2013, Mr. Hewa has enjoyed a generally smooth tenure. Under his direction since 2013, rates have been lowered by 17%, debt has been reduced, service has significantly improved, new technology empowering members to save electricity is in place, and metrics that compare PEC performance to other similar providers have soared.

Hewa’s likely departure was fully avoidable. In failing to deal forthrightly with Mr. Oakley’s incendiary racist comments, which most observers took to mean a lynching, the story gained legs and ultimately divided the cooperative internally. Many called for Mr. Oakley to resign, citing the practices of large corporations, municipalities, school boards and other elective bodies to quickly sever themselves from similar comments.  It is inescapable that PEC has chosen to sacrifice its exceptional CEO rather than remove the offending party, Mr. Oakley. To be clear, they have chosen Oakley over Hewa.

Mr. Hewa’s loss will likely register as one of the most profound blunders by any board in PEC’s 79-year history.  It has taken PEC well over 10 years to retain a measure of industry reputation and public confidence following the demise and ultimate conviction on fraud charges of  a former General Manager, Bennie Fuelberg. The damage to the cooperative’s reputation resulting from Mr. Oakley’s comments will run just as deep, take years to repair and will likely result in a flood of talent loss and a negative financial impact. The PEC Board of Directors, in protecting one of it’s own, James Oakley, appears willing to endorse a standard of values quite apart from the cooperative’s  own stated values.