James Oakley Comments Pique Interest of Southern Poverty Law Center

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The well-respected Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC),  is an American non-profit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation. They are dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.

https://www.splcenter.org/

The Facebook comments of Director James Oakley caught their attention last week when on Friday, December 14, SPLC posted on their own Facebook page the reprint of a story which ran in the Huffington Post on November 23, 2016.

https://www.facebook.com/SPLCenter/?fref=ts

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/judge-lynching-facebook-post_us_5835b951e4b000af95ed6964

To date, the SPLC Facebook post has received 7,300 responses, 2,142 shares and over 620 comments.

 

Hays/Burnet County PEC Member Weighs in on Oakley Matter

Publisher’s Note: The regularly scheduled PEC board meeting will be held on Monday, December 19, 2016 at 9am at PEC headquarters in Johnson City.

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“Time for a Tree and a Rope, ” says Judge James Oakley, PEC Board Member

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Hays/Burnet County PEC member Thomas Mitchell

Yes, we are all outraged at the recent police detective shooting in San Antonio, a horrendous crime. Yet, well before the alleged shooter had his day in court, Judge James Oakley, PEC Board member and the highest elected official in Burnet County, Texas, took it a step further. With no regard for the rule of law, due process, or “innocent until proven guilty”, Oakley proclaims on social media…”time for a tree and a rope”. Vigilante justice apparently is alive and well in Central Texas when a public servant, an elected official, calls for a lynching. “Time for a tree and a rope”???

This is not a political matter. It is not Republican vs. Democrat. Not right vs. left. Not liberal vs conservative. It’s a matter of civility, of human rights, of understanding…or rather lack of it in the case of James Oakley. This isn’t passed off as an innocent off the cuff comment as some attempted to explain at a recent PEC Board meeting. This isn’t excusable because Texas is in the wild, wild West where hanging horse thieves was once the norm as some people tried to reason at the meeting. Outrageous is what it is. Reprehensible! Coincidently, The NY Times published an article last week, The Horror of Public Lynchings, in which the author states the time when African Americans were publicly hanged is nearer in history than most people realize. Yes, I would say so and apparently that sentiment remains in Central Texas where an elected public servant proclaims “time for a tree and a rope”. What an embarrassment to those of us in the area and to PEC membership.

What it IS time for…it’s time for Judge Oakley to go. His immediate resignation from the PEC Board would allow for a time of healing, a chance to move beyond this. A chance to return to some sense of

normalcy. Short of resignation, the PEC Board must do its duty as a governing body to remove Oakley from the Board as provided in Section 5, Paragraph C of the Bylaws for “bringing disrepute or disparagement to the Cooperative by unacceptable personal conduct”.

Unless Oakley resigns, unless the PEC Board dismisses him, divisiveness and social schism prevails. Central Texas is better than that. PEC deserves more than that. The U S of A requires more. James Oakley must exit PEC Board and exit now. If not, the only assumption made is that his incendiary beliefs are common on the PEC Board…and that legacy will surely follow those Directors well into the future. Neither the members, the area populace, nor the nation will tolerate this. “Time for a tree and a rope”? No, it’s time for James Oakley to go.

Thomas H. Mitchell

PEC Member

Hays County/Burnet County

Member-Attorney Calls for Oakley Resignation

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PEC Member, attorney and veteran reform activist John Watson, Johnson City

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

PEC Reform Veteran Demands Oakley Resignation

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Fellow Member/Owners of the PEC,

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PEC Member Dave Collins Johnson CIty

Since learning about the unpardonable conduct by James Oakley I have found myself moving from disgust to outrage to action. I call on each of you who have felt those kinds of emotions as a result of Oakley’s conduct to join me in action.

Those of us who fought to free the PEC from the corrupt, criminal self-dealing by the now disgraced Bennie Fuelberg, PEC General Manager, and establish transparency in the conduct of the coop, open elections and sound business management have a special reason for outrage. All of that work now stands on the brink of being lost Through the hard work of previous Boards since those reforms, staff across the PEC and many of us, the coop has gained the reputation as a national model of effective reform. Any member should recognize the gains made in sound management of the coop reflected in at least seven rate reductions, with more planned for the near future.

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Board President Emily Pataki

In addition to the dark taint on the PEC resulting from Oakley’s actions, foot-dragging by the current Board, under the current Board President Emily Pataki, in dealing with Oakley only serves to further endanger the coop. Perhaps worse is that fact that so much of the deliberations have occurred in secret; behind the closed doors of “Executive Session.” Only by the most extreme stretching of the legal justifications for such meetings hidden from the view of members can those meetings be justified. The one great tool of the Fuelberg era was the cloak of secrecy over his and Board collaborators’ actions. This development looms ominously over the coop’s future.

According to the notice now posted on the PEC website, the PEC Board will reconvene on Wednesday the 14th at 9:00 AM for further consideration of this matter. If your personal responsibilities allow, please attend this meeting.  If not please consider sending an email to the Director for your PEC District, with copies to all Directors.

There may be another closed session of the “Special Committee” composed of Directors Pataki, Graf and Scanlon prior to Wednesday’s meeting of the full Board.  If you can, please send each of those three Directors an email regarding your reaction to Oakley’s conduct, our coop and the decision that honor and justice demand – Oakley’s removal from the Board.

The email addresses of all PEC Directors are available here:

https://www.pec.coop/Home/Your_Cooperative/Inside_PEC/Board_of_Directors/Bios.aspx

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PEC Board Vice-President James Oakley

Each of you will have your own reactions to Oakley’s comments. If they run to outrage and anger like mine, you will have your own reasons for that. In my case, and in addition to the impact on the coop outlined above, the most compelling is that a man, sworn to uphold the laws of Texas in his capacity as a County Judge and to uphold the rule of law pertaining to the PEC, would call for the murder of a man merely accused, but very far from convicted in a court of law, is repellant to me to an extent I cannot express adequately with words. For several years I carried the badge of a law enforcement officer, also sworn to uphold the law and with a unique tie to other who also seek to serve the public in that way. As much as any member of the SAPD I want the person or persons convicted of Detective Marconi’s murder to suffer the very worst the law allows as punishment for the crime a jury declares them guilty of committing. But only that.

Oakley’s apologies and claims of “poor word choice”, even if sincere which I very much doubt, cannot erase that offense.

That Oakley compounded his assault on the rule of law with unmistakable references to the special place of infamy that lynching evokes for many, and most certainly black PEC members, is equally inexcusable. He must either resign from or be ousted from the Board. Having shown, so far, no inclination to resign, as would be the honorable thing for him to do, it falls to the Board. This is their greatest test of loyalty to all PEC members and the rule of law.

Whatever your thoughts and emotional reactions, I hope you do whatever you can to make sure the PEC Directors know of it. We have no one else to call on. This is our responsibility if we wish to have an open, well-managed cooperative to reliably deliver the electric service we rely on.

Dave Collins

Johnson City

PEC Member since 1994.

Compliance Committee to Meet. Board Recommendation awaits.

By Larry Landaker, Editor and Publisher, PECTruthwatch.

Update and Correction 4:51pm December 4, 2016:

This post is effectively updated with a correction and revised headline. The entire board is not meeting on December 7, 2016. Rather, it is the special three-member “Compliance” committee that will meet to consider the complaints against Director Oakley. This committee is comprised of President Pataki, Director Graf and Director Scanlon. It is PECTruthwatch’s understanding that members will be permitted to speak. The committee is then expected to deliberate in executive session. The Board’s deadline for the committee to report back is December 9, 2016. 

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From left to right, James Oakley, John Hewa (CEO), Emily Pataki (Board President), Don Ballard (General Counsel), Jim Powers, Kathy Scanlon, Cristi Clement. Present but not pictured above, Director Paul Graf

This is the second meeting within a week involving directors to consider the controversy surrounding recent public Facebook remarks made by PEC Director James Oakley. The last meeting was on November 30.  In that meeting which lasted approximately two hours, board members listened  as Mr. Oakley was given an opportunity to make comments. Then, a full, emotion-filled house of members and employees of PEC spoke. Finally, the board retreated to executive session, after which the Pedernales Electric Cooperative issued the following statement:

PEC has received and considered the complaint regarding Director Oakley’s social media comment.

A committee of board members has been formed to consider all allowable actions, per the cooperative’s bylaws.

PEC does not condone any type of offensive language. Consistent with our cooperative values, we proudly welcome and serve all members.

Courage

By Larry Landaker, Editor and Publisher, PECTruthwatch

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PEC employees in a display of unity

A special called meeting of the Board of Directors was held yesterday, November 30, in Johnson City. To a full, tension-filled house, the Board listened to members and employees discuss the controversy surrounding recent Facebook remarks by Board member, James Oakley (chronicled in the past two or three posts on this blog). The meeting lasted approximately two hours before the board retreated to Executive Session.

Later, the Board reported the following statement:

PEC has received and considered the complaint regarding Director Oakley’s social media comment.

A committee of board members has been formed to consider all allowable actions, per the cooperative’s bylaws.

PEC does not condone any type of offensive language. Consistent with our cooperative values, we proudly welcome and serve all members.

So the matter is now in the hands of the Board of Directors and they are expected to report back within days. No other details are available at this time.

Member comments focused on Mr. Oakley’s remarks and their meaning. Some viewed his remarks as inconsequential–a reflection of frontier values, or, out of a stated concern on Mr. Oakley’s part for the recent slaying of a San Antonio police officer, Benjamin Marconi. Many others, however, viewed his comments in the context of racism and lynching. Several employees, including some of color, spoke to the hurt and pain of Mr. Oakley’s Facebook remarks. Many called for Mr. Oakley to resign or be removed by the Board. Some were overcome emotionally by Mr. Oakley’s comments and at one point, in a display of support and solidarity, a group rose from the audience to surround the podium in support of their fellow speakers. Many in the audience rose as well.

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PEC board listening to members and employees

Almost any witness to the meeting could say that an honest and frank conversation about race in America had occurred. There were differing points of view to be sure, but under the circumstances, the conversation was necessary and possibly cathartic. By any measure, yesterday was a historic day at PEC and  in the annals of electric cooperative meetings.

I will attempt to link PEC’s own video stream of the meeting here:

http://pec.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=1440&Format=Agenda