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Burnet County Judge James Oakley indicted on four charges

James Oakley

Burnet County Judge James Oakley speaks at a past meeting of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, on which he serves as District 5 director. Both the county judge and director positions are paid, which is related to two of four indictments handed down by a grand jury on Tuesday, March 7. File photo

A grand jury indicted Burnet County Judge James Oakley on Tuesday, March 7, on four charges stemming from two cases. One of the charges is a felony; three are misdemeanors. Warrants were signed on Wednesday. Oakley told at mid-day Thursday that he would be turning himself in for processing that afternoon. 

Oakley explained the two cases to in a text message as such: “My multi-term service as a member elected Director of the Board of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative and a fender-bender at a gas station two years ago where I moved a piece of a plastic bumper on the ground to clear for drivers.” 

The charges listed are: 

  • Tamper/fabricate physical evidence with intent to impair, a third-degree felony
  • Abuse of official capacity-count 1, a Class A misdemeanor
  • Abuse of official capacity-count 2, a Class B misdemeanor
  • Official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor

“I have every confidence that my attorney will be successful in the outcome of addressing these allegations during this process,” Oakley said in his texted statement.

The felony charge and the second-count misdemeanor charge assert that Oakley cannot be both a county judge and a board member for the Pedernales Electric Cooperative because both are paid positions. Oakley has served as Burnet County judge for eight years and director for PEC’s District 5 for 10 years. He was re-elected to both positions in 2022. He began his third, three-year term on the PEC board in June and his third, four-year term as county judge in January 2023.

The abuse of official capacity-count 2 charge specifically cites instances where he has driven the county-owned vehicle assigned to him as judge to PEC board meetings.

According to Local Government Code Title 5, Matters affecting public officers and employees, Chapter 171.009, Service on board of corporation for no compensation: “It shall be lawful for a local public official to serve as a member of the board of directors of private, nonprofit corporations when such officials receive no compensation or other remuneration from the nonprofit corporation or other nonprofit entity.” asked a PEC spokesperson if the co-op was legally considered a “private, nonprofit corporation.” The answer, received via email, was that “PEC is an electric cooperative corporation organized under Chapter 161, Subchapter B of the Texas Utilities Code.” 

All PEC board members file disclosure forms annually that are available to the public at board meetings and in meeting minutes. Candidates are also vetted by a Qualifications and Elections Committee before they are placed on the ballot. 

The abuse of official capacity-count 1 and the official oppression misdemeanor charges are related to a vehicle collision on April 2, 2021, at the intersection of Texas 71 and Burnet County Road 191 in Spicewood. Oakley, who lives in Spicewood, is charged with moving a piece of a bumper that, according to the indictment, showed where the wreck occurred. In his comment to, Oakley does not dispute moving the bumper part.

When asked why this case was brought to the grand jury, 33rd and 424th District Attorney Sonny McAfee said he could not talk about specific active cases, but did explain the process.

“I’m obviously not talking about this specific case, but when you bring a case before a grand jury, it’s because of an allegation of criminal misconduct,” he said. “I’m not commenting about this case. It would be inappropriate for me to make a comment about an active case.” 

The next step in the process will be the arraignment of charges before a district judge, which usually happens 30-45 days after an arrest.

2 thoughts on “Burnet County Judge James Oakley indicted on four charges

  1. The statement that Judge Oakley cannot hold office that is a stupid statement. He has not been convicted of anything. Quit trying to act as judge, jury and executioner.

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