Editorial Opinion by Larry Landaker
The car pictured above is provided to Burnet County Judge James Oakley, presumably for the purpose of conducting county business in Burnet County. So what is it doing at PEC headquarters in Johnson City, the county seat of Blanco County? Obviously, Mr. Oakley is at PEC conducting PEC business in his well-paid moonlighting position as PEC Board President. Since PEC doesn’t provide him a car, Mr. Oakley has to make do with a car provided by the taxpayers of Burnet County. To be absolutely sure everyone knows who’s inside this glistening white Tahoe, Mr. Oakley has had it marked with his preferred title on all sides, “County Judge”.
Oakley and Dripping Springs resident Jim Powers are running in tandem in this campaign, their names plastered on expensive mailers funded by interests likely bent on either killing renewable energy or pushing PEC into investor-owned control (aka customer choice), or both.
For his part, Powers is running unopposed. He is a former Hays County judge, dumped by voters in 2006, following a discredited reign in office (see One Judge Too Many, May 22, 2016).
I suspect the election will be closer than many expect. Mr. Oakley’s opponent, the highly talented Carlos Palasciano may well pull off an upset. Mr. Palasciano has campaigned hard, championing his beliefs that PEC needs fresh new vision and the need to protect PEC’s independence and autonomy.
Should Mr. Oakley lose, the winners will be PEC and its member-owners. Should he win, there is only one thing that can be done to save the cooperative from a fatal return to its historic fetish for strong-man, anti-democratic governance. Salvation can only come from a newly organized Board leadership that does not include James Oakley as board president. There are plenty of people now serving–in fact, any of them now serving, who are qualified to sit as president. At least the ones I know seem to respect the principles of democratic governance.
In the one year since Mr. Oakley was elected board president, he has remained oblivious to the perception of a conflict of interest in serving two masters with unique and intersecting proprietary interests–Burnet County and PEC. He has autocratically attempted to shut down members right to speak, struck down board code of conduct provisions and led the effort to violate the privacy of members who voted in past PEC elections. He threw his own board and its CEO under a bus by publically and unilaterally reversing (in the media) a board decision to close the Bertram office. (see The Bertram Fiasco, September 6, 2015). He grabbed public credit for plans to build a two-story $17 million PEC “hub” in Burnet County, upstaging other directors who supported it. And that is just the short list.
The board must not permit this Oakley-Powers axis of wheeler-dealers, two county judge hacks with a penchant for bullying, to dominate the cooperative. It must muster the courage to re-organize with a new board president at the helm. It must be someone perceived to have PEC interests at heart, someone with unimpeachable integrity. The board is full of talented people who are capable of presiding over meetings–the only real duty that is assigned to the Board President under the bylaws. The only question is, can the board save itself from certain tyranny?
Members who have not voted may do so in person at the Annual Membership Meeting tomorrow, Saturday, June 18, at Dripping Springs High School Performing Arts Center, 940 Highway 290 West. Registration, voting and activities start at 8 a.m. and the business meeting begins at 10:30 a.m. Members are invited to attend for PEC business updates, Board election voting and results, and door prizes.