by Larry Landaker, Editor and Publisher, PEC Truthwatch
NOTE: A special called meeting of the Board of Directors of PEC has been scheduled for Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 11:30 am at the PEC Headquarters in Johnson City. Members are encouraged to attend and speak.
When Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) Board Vice President James Oakley wrote the words, “Time for a tree and a rope” on his Facebook page last week, he revealed exactly who he is. By suggesting that a black man accused of murder should be lynched, he revealed his true self.
Believe him the first time.
There are very few people in America who fail to see the connection in language between an accused black man, a rope and a tree as anything other than a racist call for a lynching. Oakley’s comments were made as a wave of outlandish statements, threats and intimidation against blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews and other minorities is on the rise throughout the U.S.
On Facebook, Mr. Oakley’s failed judgment foolishly led him to believe that his remark was just among friends; like-minded people who think that sort of comment is knee-slapping funny. Once the social media world caught and cornered him, he deleted his post and offered an “apology”, saying his “off the cuff comment” was “curt and harsh”…adding that he should have been “more thoughtful and comprehensive in my expression.” He continued that his comments more clearly reflected his opinion on the “cowardly crime of the senseless murder of a law enforcement officer.” Blah, blah, blah.
This was no apology at all. It was the flimsy justification from a man caught in his own hubris. Apology not accepted.
A true apology might sound something like this:
I am sorry for what I said. I was wrong. While I grieve for the loss of the police officer in San Antonio, I realize that my words were cruel and hurtful to many and there is no justification for them–none. My words have inflicted damage on the reputation of the employees and governing bodies whom I serve. As an elected official I have been a poor example to children who learn from adult leaders. I realize that I have much to learn. Racism has no place in a nation that celebrates freedom and diversity. My words referencing a “tree and a rope” could not be mistaken for anything other than a reference to the lynching of a black man. While I did not intend for that to actually occur, in saying those words in jest I needlessly opened ugly wounds from our nation’s darkest chapters at a time when we should be healing them. I want people to know that I am learning from this experience. I hope, through my own future actions, that they will find a way to forgive me.
That is an apology. It is honest and is what is called for. Honesty is not what we got.
Shortly after Mr. Oakley’s Facebook post last week, PEC issued this statement concerning Mr. Oakley’s comments:
“PEC is aware of the comments recently made by Director Oakley on his personal Facebook account,” the statement said. “PEC does not condone any type of offensive language. Comments such as these are not a reflection of our cooperative values. We proudly welcome and serve all members.”
Within hours after PEC’s commendable statement was made public, it was pulled from PEC’s website with no explanation. PECTruthwatch now believes the statement was pulled at the direction of Mr. Oakley himself–an egregious self-interested overreach of his authority as a director.
Absent a true apology or Mr. Oakley’s resignation from his seat on the board of directors, the PEC board is now confronted with its own moment of truth. Mr. Oakley’s actions, along with the damage his comments have made, now compel the board to act swiftly. PEC has worked hard in recent years under the able leadership of CEO John Hewa to shed the reputation of corruption from its now distant past. Before Mr. Oakley ruins ten years of productive hard work and further destroys PEC’s reputation, he must go. If he will not resign, the Board must remove him. Immediately.
PEC employs over 700 people and has a membership of over 250,000 people representing all walks of life. It is not possible to imagine how the board of directors can accommodate Mr. Oakley’s remarks. Imagine attempting to recruit new employees to PEC when a member of its own board of directors holds these public views? Imagine keeping superior employees who find such language from an ultimate superior to be so blatantly intolerable?
PECTruthwatch has been contacted frequently this week with a common question: What if a PEC employee or a manager went on a public rant and said these things? Wouldn’t they face consequences? Wouldn’t they be fired? If the answer is yes, then how can the board accommodate Mr. Oakley? There cannot be a double-standard.
Under PEC’s strategic plan there exists a values statement which includes the following: Respect (people, environment, law, and a diverse workplace).
PEC expects all employees in the PEC workplace to respect the values of others, even when those values differ. It is the duty of the board to protect its members and employees from harm to their reputation. It must act to guarantee that PEC’s values reflect American values–values of inclusion that help people rise without respect to religion, race or origin. Mr. Oakley’s words betray an acceptance of all these values.
This is an unpleasant test for the Board President, Emily Pataki. This is one time when a matter cannot be deferred or studied. It cannot be relegated to others to solve. This is a board call. I trust that President Pataki and other board members will do their duty.
PEC employees and members are watching…and waiting.
Mr. Oakley’s comments last week became viral and the story went global, reaching much of the U.S. and the world through various news outlets, including both mainstream and social media. Here is a short list of the links: