SUBSCRIBE NOW

Enjoy all your local news and sports for less than 6¢ per day.

Subscribe Now

Five candidates are vying for two seats on the Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, including the two incumbents. And one of two PEC members who filed and were deemed ineligible to run said he will fight to have that decision overturned.

On the ballot, Carlos St. James is challenging incumbent Emily Pataki for the District 2 seat, which represents parts of Williamson County south of, but not including, Liberty Hill to the south of, and including, Cedar Park. A small portion of Travis County to the northwest of Cedar Park is also included. 

Michael Guess and John Hoffner are vying for the District 3 seat currently held by Board President Mark Ekrut. District 3 covers Travis County following the north shore of the Colorado River east from the Burnet County line to just east of U.S. 183. It abuts District 5, which is Burnet County, and includes Lago Vista and Jonestown. It also includes a small portion of Williamson County.

Ballots will be mailed and the online voting site will go live on May 16. PEC members in the two districts with seats up for election may vote from May 16 through June 9. Results will be announced on June 13 and winners seated during the June 16 board meeting immediately following the annual meeting on the same day. 

PEC does not release the names of ineligible candidates, but one, who is a former board member, has made his rejection public. This is the second time Randy Klaus, a retired certified public accountant for the Public Utility Commission of Texas, has been deemed ineligible by the Qualifications Election Committee.

The QEC is comprised of seven PEC members appointed by each board director to represent their district. The 2023 QEC met on April 5 at PEC headquarters in Johnson City to vet the seven applicants for the seats in districts 2 and 3.

Klaus was elected to what was then District 1 in 2017. He resigned his seat in February 2020, the year he was up for re-election. He resigned during an executive session “under duress,” he told DailyTrib.com. 

“I was qualified in 2017 and nothing has changed since then,” Klaus said in March after he applied for the position. “They won’t disclose why I was disqualified in 2020.” 

In the past year, Klaus has filed numerous public information requests with PEC, one to find out why he was deemed ineligible in 2020. 

A response from PEC board counsel Ross Fischer on April 5 included a copy of a letter Fischer wrote to the 2020 QEC stating why he believed Klaus should not be on the ballot. 

The four-page letter, which Klaus provided to DailyTrib.com, outlined the reasons, including a complaint of “questionable or unwanted interactions between Klaus and PEC staff,” which led to a counseling session with Klaus, Fischer, and an outside attorney that January before Klaus’ resignation. According to Fischer, Klaus blamed CEO Julie Parsley and began retaliatory efforts, including an attempt to have her fired. 

“It is my opinion that his conduct was adverse to the interests of PEC, and violated both PEC’s Harassment Policy and its Directors’ Code of Conduct,” Fischer wrote in his letter to the 2020 QEC.

On Wednesday, the day the QEC met and the day Klaus was notified of his ineligibility, he filed a request asking for the names of the QEC members, their exact written recommendations, and the recorded vote, which was 6-0 against putting his name on the ballot. (One committee member was absent.)

He also sent out a mass email to about 190 officials and members of the media calling the QEC’s decision “illegal campaign interference by the executive management at PEC.”

In another mass email, he appealed to the board to overturn the QEC decision. 

“Even though the Elections and Procedures Policy states that the QEC’s recommendation is ‘final,’ the board is not required to adopt the QEC recommendation,” he wrote in the email. “On behalf of the best interests of the membership, I implore y’all to place my name on the ballot. It is the Board’s decision on an election resolution that is final, subject to a court ruling.”

An email from Fischer that was forwarded to DailyTrib.com outlined reasons for this year’s disqualification. 

“The QEC concluded that, while a director, you failed to act in good faith and to represent the best interests of the Cooperative as a whole,” Fischer wrote. “The basis for this conclusion stems from your threats to take matters on which you disagreed with Board members and Cooperative management to the press and to law enforcement, and further by attempting to punish or dismiss the CEO or other employees in a retaliatory manner, in violation of the PEC Director Code of Conduct and other PEC policies. Additionally, you’ve continued to threaten, in writing, retaliation should you be returned to the Board of Directors.”

Klaus told DailyTrib.com when he filed for the 2023 election he was ready to take the matter to court if he was rejected by the QEC. As of this story’s publication on Friday afternoon, April 7, he had not taken any action. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com