[Watchdogs] Fuelberg trial: PEC manager re-assigned after raising questions about legal bills [Patrick George, AAS]
milton.hawkins at gmail.com
Fri Dec 3 21:37:36 CST 2010
Fuelberg trial: PEC manager re-assigned after raising questions about
legal bills In addition to his brother, Fuelberg also hired his father at
Pedernales, testimony reveals.
By Patrick George
Published: 9:13 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, 2010
Luis Garcia, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative's acting general manager,
testified Friday that former general manager Bennie Fuelberg assigned him to
another department after Garcia questioned a bill from the co-op's outside
law firm, Clark, Thomas & Winters of Austin.
Under questioning by prosecutor Harry White, Garcia testified that there
were several charges on the June 2004 bill ranging from $1,000 to $10,000,
which prompted him to ask for more documentation from Walter Demond, then
the cooperative's attorney at Clark Thomas.
Garcia, then the human resources manager at the co-op, said he never got a
response from Demond. In August 2004, he and other co-op managers got a memo
from Fuelberg saying that Fuelberg would handle all future billings from the
A few months later, he said, Fuelberg asked him to head the information
technology department. But Garcia did not say that he was reassigned because
he raised questions, nor did prosecutors ask him.
"Bennie had a management technique, for lack of a better word, where he
liked to rotate and give managers experience in different departments,"
defense attorney Chris Gunter said, and Garcia agreed that was so.
The legal bills are central to the state's case against Fuelberg, who is
charged with felony theft, money laundering and misapplication of fiduciary
property. Prosecutors are trying to prove that Fuelberg secretly funneled
money through Clark Thomas to his lobbyist brother, Curtis Fuelberg, and
attorney Bill Price, the son of former longtime board member E.B. Price.
Demond faces the same charges as Fuelberg and will stand trial next year.
During this first week of the trial in District Judge Dan Mills' court,
witnesses have said they knew of no actual work Curtis Fuelberg and Bill
Price did for Pedernales while they were being paid thousands of dollars
Also on Friday, E.B. Price revealed that Bennie Fuelberg once pressed the
board to hire Fuelberg's father to help with the expansion of Pedernales'
field operations in 1979, after the co-op ended its operating agreement with
the Lower Colorado River Authority. Price testified that he voted "no" but
the elder Fuelberg, previously a district manager for the LCRA, was still
"I told Mr. Fuelberg that (his father) may be the best man for the job, but
it really looked bad," said Price, who served on the board from 1978 to
2008. Price also shed some light on the arrangement with Clark Thomas that
paid his son $2,000 a month.
In 2003, Price said, "I walked into Mr. Fuelberg's office and he asked if my
son would like to work for Walter Demond. I said I don't know because Bill
would have to answer that question."
Price told prosecutor Eric Nichols he did not know why Fuelberg initiated
the arrangement, nor that Bill Price was being paid with Pedernales funds.
Price and other former directors have testified that there was no written
policy that prohibited Fuelberg from hiring his brother, but that the board
should have been told about it. If it had been made public, Price testified,
it would have been "controversial."
Other witnesses who testified Friday included former co-op board member O.C.
Harmon; former assistant general manager Will Dahmann, who was second in
command to Bennie Fuelberg; and Kyle Swihart, a forensic accountant from the
attorney general's office. Testimony resumes Monday.
pgeorge at statesman.com; 512-392-8750
Find this article at:
Milton Hawkins milton.hawkins at gmail.com
P.O. Box 1502
Johnson City, Texas 78636-1502
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