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Oakley wants county to pay legal fees, missed salary after not guilty verdict

Burnet County Judge James Oakley

Burnet County Judge James Oakley. File photo

Burnet County Judge James Oakley is seeking reimbursement from the county for his legal fees and missed salary after he was found not guilty of a misdemeanor charge of misuse of government property and his suspension from duties was lifted. He added his requests in two agenda items for the first meeting of the Commissioners Court over which he will preside since he was suspended on March 15 by the State Commission of Judicial Conduct. 

The meeting is at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12, in the second-floor courtroom of the Burnet County Courthouse,  220 S. Pierce St. in Burnet.

Oakley was suspended without pay following a March 7 grand jury indictment on four charges, including three misdemeanors and a felony. District Judge Dib Waldrip quashed three of the charges in July, although they are being appealed. District Attorney Wiley “Sonny” McAfee has until Oct. 4 to submit briefs on the three charges to the Third Court of Appeals in Austin. 

The only charge to go to trial was a class B misdemeanor for misuse of government property. Oakley was charged with using a county-owned vehicle to attend meetings of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, on which he serves. A Blanco County jury found him not guilty on Aug. 31. His suspension as Burnet County judge was lifted on Sept. 1.

Oakley is legally allowed to request reimbursement of legal fees and missed salary, Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo told

“Whether or not they do it is up to the commissioners,” Arredondo said.

Oakley will have to abstain from voting on the two agenda items, leaving the decision up to the four commissioners.

Arredondo cited Texas Local Government Code 157.901 and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s 2015 opinion KP-0037 as legal precedents for seeking reimbursement.

LGC 157.901 states that a county commissioners court may pay for a county official’s legal defense if they are criminally charged in their capacity as an official. 

AG opinion KP-0037 gives a clear indication that Oakley’s legal fees could be covered if commissioners choose to do so:

“Under the common law, a county commissioners court has discretion to reimburse legal expenses incurred by a county commissioner in the defense of a criminal matter which results in a finding of not guilty if the prosecution was for actions that were within scope of official duties and defense is primarily for a county purpose and not a personal interest.”

Both 157.901 and KP-0037 hinge upon the Burnet County Commissioners Court determining whether Oakley’s legal defense was in greater service to the county than to himself. asked Oakley what his legal fees amounted to, but he said he’d rather save it for Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’d rather not hype it up,” he said.

Commissioners Joe Don Dockery and Damon Beierle told that they would have to look into the matter further and they are unable to discuss it among themselves outside of the court. 

Dockery did note that he could see Oakley’s point of view regarding reimbursement of his salary.

“The payment of his salary is in our budget, and if someone accuses you of a crime and you’re found not guilty, wouldn’t you want reimbursement?” he said.

4 thoughts on “Oakley wants county to pay legal fees, missed salary after not guilty verdict

  1. The Burnet County Commissioner’s Court should not reimburse Judge James Oakley for any legal fees because the criminal charges were not from something he was doing in his official capacity as County Judge. The criminal charges stem from something that he was doing that was self serving by using county equipment in another county doing a second job. To pay for his legal fees for his own personal acts or actions would be wrong and a misuse of taxpayer money.

    As far as reimbursement for salary, I also disagree with this. He was not suspended by the county commissioners court or a local judge. He was suspended by The Judicial Review Board of the State Bar of Texas. He was in violation of his judicial cannon. This is not the first time he has violated his judicial cannon. He has been sanctioned previously. He has been referred to the State Comtroller Office for review for lying on his annual affidavit he filed about the amount of time he spends on the bench on criminal or civil court cases.

    Judge james Oakley is a likable guy who is a self serving individual who is not good for Burnet County. One day the voters of this county will see things for what they really are….

  2. My suggestion is the PEOPLE of Burnet County, DEMAND that the DA pay the Judge, and repay us for the bogus charges.

    This DA needs to go.

    If I am arrested you can bet that there is a clique that in Burnet County that does not like people thinking for themselves.

  3. Judge Oakley should receive salary from county while suspended but legal fees should be paid for by the state board who suspended him.

  4. If this was Oakley’s first brush with the law/ethics enforcement folks I might actually be willing to listen to his ridiculous request. Since he has been a habitual fixture in front of ethics boys and girls out of Austin for years now, he needs to be held accountable for the continued embarrassment he has caused for Burnet County.

    However, since this is up to the rubber stamping Commissioners, we all know they are afraid of Oakley and will cave in to his request.

    There are obvious parallels between Biden’s swamp actions in DC and Oakley’s hog wallowing in Burnet County. Think of what Burnet County could have done with the $$$$ they will waste on paying for Oakley’s pork fest. moderates all comments. Comments with profanity, violent or discriminatory language, defamatory statements, or threats will not be allowed. The opinions and views expressed here are those of the person commenting and do not necessarily reflect the official position of or Victory Media Marketing.

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