Publisher’s Note: This letter was sent directly to James Oakley and provided to PEC Truthwatch. It is published here with permission of the author.
Judge James Oakley:
My wife Erin and I have been member/owners of PEC since we moved to Blanco County in 1994 and I am writing this for both of us. I was involved in the member uprising which started in 2007. It led to the eventual ouster of GM Bennie Fuelberg, the opening up of the co-op to member election of the Board, open meetings of the Board and other important reforms. We have taken pride in seeing PEC move from being considered almost a pariah within electric co-op circles to being held out as a model for how a co-op could operate in accord with its member wishes and the Principles of Cooperative, while still providing efficient, reasonably priced retail electric service to its vast service area.
We now fear that hard-won reputation has been tarnished and is at substantial risk of being lost altogether. Because of the inexcusable Facebook post you saw fit to send out to the world (that is the thing about the internet; nothing posted there ever really goes away) about the deplorable murder of San Antonio PD Detective Marconi and the individual arrested and charged with his killing, it is no longer tenable for you to continue serving as a Director of our Co-op. Your staying on would only result in ongoing criticism of the organization and a Board that failed to remove you for your actions and very likely turmoil within the employee ranks of PEC. Such turmoil would have a negative impact on the financial results of the co-op, as well as other likely repercussions which cannot be foreseen at this time.
I am a lawyer, and like all members of the Bar, an officer of the court. As such I have sworn to uphold the rule of law. Though you are not, to my knowledge, a lawyer you do hold a position conferring certain judicial functions on you. For one in your position to be seen as advocating extra-judicial vigilante action, even for the heinous crime of killing a law enforcement officer, is beyond the pale. It is a dereliction of your duties of office, and besmirches all decent thinking Judges and the very people who entrusted their votes to you in Burnet County. When on top of this unacceptable call for usurping the due and proper administration of justice one adds the racial overtones of the well-understood phrase, “time for a tree and a rope,” the result is both intolerable and unforgivable, at least in the context of allowing you to retain the position of Director of PEC.
I have served on a number of boards, both for-profit and not-for-profit, in my life. I understand the concept of fiduciary duty thoroughly. I know that the duty is owed by Directors to the organization and its shareholders and/or members, not to other Directors. You have put your fellow PEC Board members in an intolerably difficult situation. It appears they are reluctant, as they should be, to remove you from the board. On the other hand, failure to act in the face of your egregious and vile post would signal to many that your actions could somehow be condoned, or perhaps excused as a mere “poor choice of words.” Or, that forgiveness should prevail because your supporters say you are a good man. Sorry, none of these excuses nor your so-called apologies, even if meant sincerely, can erase the fact of that post. It is out there; it will remain out there. Words have meaning. And consequences. Most of the time they convey the true sentiment lying in the mind and heart of the one who utter them. Your post was not some unfortunate, spur of the moment blurting-out born of spontaneous anger, but the deliberate action of one who took the time and effort to post a photo and the message you framed with forethought. So you are stuck with it. And you alone, not the other Directors or the PEC, deserve to bear the opprobrium the post generated.
Your fellow Board members would have every right to be thoroughly angered that you have placed them in this unwanted situation. Naturally, they are reluctant to remove a fellow Director, and rightly so as that is a very serious action that should be invoked only in the most serious of situations. Yet, if they fail to act they inevitably give the appearance of condoning your unacceptable views as exposed by your repugnant posting. Quite a dilemma you have handed them.
There is a solution, however. You should immediately resign from your position as Director of PEC. Decency and honor call for such action on your part. Issue a sincere apology. Free the co-op, its Board, employees and its member/owners from the ongoing drama and pain of dealing with the fallout created by your actions. Don’t blame the critics and protesters calling for you to go. Accept responsibility and the consequences that go with it. You could truthfully say you are doing so for the good of the PEC and to spare it further turmoil. Do the right thing and go now.
John and Erin Watson
PEC member/owners, Johnson City, TX