By Larry Landaker, Publisher of PECTruthwatch
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 .
“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:
PEC Truthwatch has obtained the full text of Mr. Watson’s complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Review here:
Two excerpts are cited here:
I. False, non-factual, deceptive or misleading statements by Judge
“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.”