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Oakley not happy with PEC punishment, calls it political move

The Pedernales Electric Cooperative board of directors voted Jan. 17 to remove director James Oakley's vice president status and issue him a warning over a November Facebook post that some perceived as racist. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

The Pedernales Electric Cooperative board of directors voted Jan. 17 to remove director James Oakley's vice president status and issue him a warning over a November Facebook post that some perceived as racist. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR

JOHNSON CITY — Though two directors wanted James Oakley removed from the Pedernales Electric Cooperative board over a controversial Facebook post made Nov. 21, 2016, the board went with a recommendation from a PEC complaint committee to strip him of his vice president seat and issue him a warning.

Oakley, however, believes that measure was more than what he deserved.

“First of all, I disagree with the process, I disagree with the findings, and I disagree with the recommendation,” Oakley said after the other six members of the board voted on the measure. “I feel like there are other directors who weren’t calling for my removal but felt like they had to do something to appease the voices that were part of manufacturing this whole fiasco.

“This is something that was opportunistically manipulated and attached to a sensitive topic in today’s society,” he added.

During its regular Jan. 17 meeting, the PEC board of directors voted 6-0 (Oakley did not participate) to accept a complaint committee’s recommendation to take Oakley’s vice president status from him and issue a warning for posting that it was “time for a tree and a rope” regarding the San Antonio Police Department’s Facebook announcement of the arrest of a black man, Otis Tyrone McKane, in the killing of SAPD detective Benjamin Marconi on Nov. 20.

Oakley removed the post by Nov. 22 after realizing some people were offended by it, perceiving it to be a racist comment. He also apologized at the time and once again during a subsequent PEC board meeting.

He pointed out that the comment was made in a private Facebook group, but someone took a screenshot of the post and began sharing it with media outlets and other individuals.

“It was not a public comment,” Oakley said.

During a special PEC board meeting Nov. 30 to consider a complaint filed by PEC Director Cristi Clement against Oakley for the Facebook post, co-op members and employees spoke both in support of Oakley and against him, some even advocating for his removal from the board.

Oakley acknowledged he made the post but said he was reacting to the murder of a law enforcement officer, not to the suspect’s race. He added some people attempted to twist it into a racist comment.

During that meeting, the board appointed a three-director complaint committee consisting of Emily Pataki, Paul Graf, and Kathy Scanlon to investigate the complaint and make a recommendation to the full board of any possible action against Oakley. The complaint 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 voiced their support for Oakley or their desire to see him dismissed from the board.

The committee voted 2-1 to recommend a warning to Oakley as well as remove his vice president status. Scanlon voted against those measures, instead recommending his removal from the board.

During the public comments at the Jan. 17 meeting, people again shared their opinions on Oakley’s future on the board.

Oakley contends the complaint and push by two PEC directors were politically motivated rather than having anything to do with PEC itself.

“My comment didn’t affect the daily operations of PEC,” he said, pointing out that customer service “was up during December, we still have low rates, and there were no major power outages.”

Clement, however, made a motion to remove Oakley from the board, which failed. Only she and Scanlon voted in favor of the measure (Oakley didn’t vote). In the end, the board voted to go with the complaint committee’s recommendation.

“I maintain the vast majority of the million or so PEC members and the 700 employees were not offended by my comment and don’t agree that it had anything to do with PEC,” Oakley added. “As for moving forward, I move forward with my head high as I know I didn’t do anything wrong.”

In another agenda item filed by Oakley that would toss out the amendments that laid out director discipline and possible removal steps by the board, the board postponed consideration of the measure until a later date.

daniel@thepicayune.com

9 thoughts on “Oakley not happy with PEC punishment, calls it political move

  1. Mr. Oakley was quoting a line from a John Wayne movie. He is not racist. I know him well. He and his family do volunteer work at homeless shelters and go on mission trips helping people of all races. They did this before this comment and after. He meant nothing racist about it. He just grew up in a small Texan town where cowboy references are common.

  2. Regardless of his intent or his apology, he should be adult enough to accept the outcome of the committee. He brought shame and embarrassment to PEC, Burnet County and Texas and caused PEC staff extra work. He should have resigned; that’s what a true leader would have done. He’s just in it for the money, just like the few hours a week he spends on County Judge business. 2 jobs, over $100,000 a year between them and works both of them on a part time basis. And he drives a large new, tax payer funded SUV. Public service? Not a chance….more like Public Graft.

  3. People are so sensitive. I reference tree and a rope all the time, and not to be raisist but to be western. Cowboy punishment for a well deserved crime.

  4. Very smug Mr. Oakley! Your arrogance and complete lack of contrition confirms your racist tendencies. Shameful. No Mr. Oakley it’s not time for a tree and a rope…it’s time for you to exit public service. You have embarrassed PEC, Burnet County, and the citizens of Central Texas. Yes, there have been similar “slips of the tongue” around the country, but in virtually all cases there has been the decency of a resignation or removal. We’ve seen no decency from you, and certainly the PEC Board has shirked its responsibility of governance. And calling for a public lynching, vigilante action at its finest, is a remarkable cry for a sitting judge and the highest elected official in the county. Rule of law and due process…what’s that??? Be assured, Mr. Oakley, Judge Oakley, “time for a tree and a rope” will be haunting.

  5. While Oakley’s comment on Facebook was clearly racist – to deny that is silly – that is not the most serious problem. That problem is that Oakley, both a PEC Director and a County Judge, was calling for a man to be killed by vigilante action. McKane, the man in the photo had, at the time of Oakley’s Facebook post, not even been charged with the murder of SAPD Detective Marconi, much less convicted in a court of law. While the position of County Judge is not generally thought of as a judicial post, it is – being what is called a “Constitutional Court;” that is, established by the Texas Constitution. So, what we have is a member of the Texas judiciary, who swore ad oath to uphold the laws of Texas, calling for the murder of a man considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a doubt by a jury or a judge. That is the most grievous aspect of this matter. That it has drawn scant attention is very troubling.

    For Oakley to claim that it was a “private” post is, in this era of social media, either unbelievably naive or a straight out lie. I cannot judge which, but certainly have my suspicions.

    In any case, readers should be aware that, because of the transgression of the oath of a judge, numerous complaints regarding Oakley’s conduct have been filed with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. It is my hunch that the commission will be less forgiving than the Directors of the PEC.

    1. He was not implying for the man to be killed by vigilante action. Sounded more to me like suggesting old school justice after the trial. Assuming he was found guilty that is.. oh and i bet your hunch on the commission doing anything to him. Not gonna happen.

  6. James Oakley’s arrogance is unbounded. Far from offering a sincere apology for his offensive Facebook post, which I along with many others deemed racist, he pours fuel on the fire by his sneering lack of contrition. The lame excuse that he never intended the words to go public (better learn a bit more about social media) does not make their utterance less odious. It is a sad day for the largest electric distribution co-op in the US, one co-founded by Lyndon B. Johnson, signer of landmark civil rights legislation, when it harbors and tolerates someone with Mr. Oakley’s attitudes on its Board. And, no, Mr. Oakley, despite your wish, at least this member who wanted you removed because of your offensive words will not just move on as you would like. Your shame will linger and so will I.

    1. I am a pec customer as well and i,m offended that your offended. No offense though.

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