Categorized | Government, News, PEC

PEC committee recommends warning, ending Oakley’s VP role over Facebook post

DANIEL EDITOR • EDITOR

A Pedernales Electric Cooperative complaint committee released its recommendation for Director James Oakley in regard to a Facebook post he made in November 2016 that some people perceived as racist. The committee voted 2-1 to recommend taking Oakley’s board vice president role from him and issuing him a warning. The full PEC board will take up the matter during its regular meeting at 9 a.m. Jan. 17 at the headquarters, 201 Ave. F South in Johnson City. File photo

A Pedernales Electric Cooperative complaint committee released its recommendation for Director James Oakley in regard to a Facebook post he made in November 2016 that some people perceived as racist. The committee voted 2-1 to recommend taking Oakley’s board vice president role from him and issuing him a warning. The full PEC board will take up the matter during its regular meeting at 9 a.m. Jan. 17 at the headquarters, 201 Ave. F South in Johnson City. File photo

JOHNSON CITY — After completing its investigation into Director James Oakley, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s three-director complaint committee recommended the full board strip him of his vice president position and issue him a warning for a November social media post he wrote that some people took as being racist.

In what might be a counter-move, Oakley filed a resolution of his own, asking the board to strip the language from the by-laws that allows the board to discipline and even remove fellow directors.

The complaint committee, made up of directors Paul Graf, Emily Pataki, and Kathy Scanlon, voted 2-1 on Jan. 6 to present that recommendation to the full board during the PEC board of directors meeting Jan. 17.

The recommendation was released as part of the PEC board agenda.

Scanlon voted against the measure. According to the PEC board agenda and resolution on the matter, Scanlon recommended removal of Oakley from the board.

The matter began Nov. 21, 2016, when Oakley, who is the District 5 director for PEC, posted it was “Time for a tree and a rope” in reference to the San Antonio Police Department announcing on its Facebook page the arrest of Otis Tyrone McKane, who is African-American, for the killing of SAPD detective Benjamin Marconi a few days earlier.

Oakley deleted the post Nov. 22 after realizing the words offended some people. He has also apologized for the comment. The post, however, received a large amount of attention from traditional and social media outlets.

PEC Director Cristi Clement filed a complaint against Oakley. On Nov. 30, the PEC board met at the Johnson City headquarters to discuss the complaint. Prior to any official business, more than 20 people — PEC members and employees — shared their opinions on the matter with a majority pressing for Oakley to be punished, even removed from the board.

The board formed the three-person complaint committee to investigate the issue and make a recommendation to the full board of any punitive action. The committee met Dec. 7 and 8 as well as Jan. 6. Prior to the Dec. 7 meeting, more than 20 PEC members and staff again shared their thoughts on what, if anything, should happen to Oakley.

During the investigative process, the committee interviewed Oakley “as well as most members of PEC’s senior management. The committee received information regarding the perceived impact of the situation on PEC employees in various classifications and divisions within the cooperative; and also reviewed relevant documentation, including media reports, staff reports, and complaints made regarding human resource aspects of the cooperative.”

The committee findings also stated Oakley’s “comment does not appear to have been made maliciously with intentional hate or racist overtones” and does not represent his “work on behalf of PEC.” However, the findings added that the post did cause “unnecessary disruption” of PEC and “cast certain unfavorable light to PEC’s goodwill and brand and has apparently caused negative impact to PEC’s otherwise high employee morale.”

Under PEC bylaws, the board could levy a range of punishments, including dismissing the complaint and taking no action against the director or removing him from the board.

The committee recommendation is just that at this point. The resolution (No. 3868) is on the PEC board agenda as item No. 6B.

In another resolution further down the agenda, placed by Oakley, the board will consider tossing out the amendments it approved in November that laid out the discipline and possible removal of a director. These are the same steps the board has used in dealing with the complaint against Oakley.

If approved, the section would be renamed “Director Removal by Members” and leave that power in the hands of members following a specified process.

Go to pec.coop to see the full agenda and read the complete report.

The Jan. 17 board meeting will be at PEC headquarters auditorium, 201 Ave. F South in Johnson City. It starts at 9 a.m.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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