Burnet County Judge James Oakley suspended without pay over indictment
Burnet County Judge James Oakley was suspended without pay from his position by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct on Wednesday, March 15. The suspension is in relation to his indictment on March 7 on three misdemeanor charges and one felony charge.
The charges are associated with perceived conflicts of power between his roles as county judge and Pedernales Electric Cooperative District 5 board director as well as a 2021 vehicle accident in which he is accused of tampering with evidence.
Oakley’s suspension will be in effect until his case is resolved or the State Commission on Judicial Conduct chooses to lift the suspension. The Burnet County Commissioners Court will appoint one of its four active members to conduct meetings in Oakley’s absence.
“I fully anticipated this, as it’s fairly automatic for anybody with ‘judge’ in front of their name under indictment,” Oakley told DailyTrib.com.
State Commission on Judicial Conduct Executive Director Jacqueline Habersham confirmed Oakley’s statement, saying the commission is very likely to suspend a judge who is indicted, especially on charges of “abuse of official capacity” or “official oppression.”
“Article 5 of the Texas Constitution as well as Rule 15 permits the commission to suspend a judge upon an indictment for a felony offense or a misdemeanor involving official misconduct,” she said.
The 13-member state commission consists of judges, lawyers, and public representatives who investigate allegations of judicial misconduct.
The charges against Oakley are as follows:
- 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;
- and official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.
The four counts relate to two different cases: one concerning his serving as both a county judge and on the PEC Board of Directors; the other regarding an April 2021 vehicle accident in Spicewood.
Oakley turned himself in at the Lampasas County Sheriff’s Office on March 9 after the March 7 indictment and quickly bonded out on all four charges, a combined $5,000.
Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo told DailyTrib.com that the Commissioners Court will continue to function normally in Oakley’s absence.
“Nobody is going to be the county judge,” he explained.
The commissioners will appoint one of their own during an upcoming meeting to lead court meetings and sign paperwork. The appointed commissioner will remain a commissioner, not serve as a temporary judge.
Oakley addressed the accusations against him in a written statement to DailyTrib.com.
“I’m humbled and proud to be elected by the citizens of Burnet County and am in the 17th year of that service,” his statement reads. “I’m equally honored to be elected by the members to serve on the PEC Board of Directors for the last ten years. In light of recent unfounded allegations, I wanted to offer some clarity concerning my public service which has always been in compliance with state laws.”
His statement lays out the other organizations for which he has served at the same time he has been county judge, noting that he has never had a conflict of interest in these instances. Among these boards and commissions are the Capital Area Council of Governments, Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization, Texas Association of Regional Councils, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
“Throughout this transparent service, there has never been any overlap of agenda items considered that would require abstention,” the statement continues. “The Burnet County Attorney signs off on Commissioners’ Court agendas and attends each meeting.”
Oakley also addressed the accusation of abuse of power in using his county-issued vehicle to conduct non-county business.
“As defined by and at the direction of the Burnet County Auditor (Karin Smith), use of a county issued vehicle to interact with public serving entities like LCRA, PEC, CORIX, Frontier, TxDOT, TDEM, etc., is well within the approved usage of a vehicle as it is serving a public purpose,” he stated.
He also addressed the “tampering with evidence” charge by citing language in public transportation code 600, which states that hazardous material “shall” be removed from the roadway. He said this justified his moving of a piece of bumper from the road in the 2021 accident.
5 thoughts on “Burnet County Judge James Oakley suspended without pay over indictment”
The only hit job is Oakley hitting himself. This is no surprise and I brought these issues and others up during one of our debates. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct must have Oakley’s number on speed dial.
Don’t feel alone Monique. Over 5,000 Burnet County folks ignored warnings and smoke billowing out of the courthouse to vote him in again. You and those 5,000+ are getting what you deserve but you have to realize you are embarrassing Burnet County yet again.
Let’s watch and see what the PEC does now.
I am correct and your WRONG!!!
Apparently you don’t know Texas. As far PEC goes, I have been on them for closing MY BUILDING and Judge Oakley went to bat for us. As the prior incident, Horse Thieves and Cattle Rustlers were hung for years. Race did not play any part in that
Except that it could also be that he actually broke the law and is being held accountable….?
The whole reason these rules to prevent abuses of office are there for a reason. Folks who are coming out to support him are so hypocritical because “law and order” only seems to apply to those on the opposing side of the aisle.
This is a hit job on Judge Oakley and I am getting tired of this malarky. It is time for the County Attorney to step up and defend the judge, and yes I know that is not his job. But this is beyond belief again.