[Watchdogs] Fuelberg trial day eight: Fuelberg takes the stand, says he “did not instruct” lawyer on payments [Patrick George, AAS]
milton.hawkins at gmail.com
Wed Dec 8 18:23:13 CST 2010
Bennie will walk, and we will pay. - Milton
Fuelberg trial day eight: Fuelberg takes the stand, says he “did not
instruct” lawyer on
By Patrick George <pgeorge at statesman.com> | Wednesday, December 8, 2010,
Bennie Fuelberg took the stand this morning in his own defense, and in a
lengthy testimony, he said he “suggested” Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s
top outside lawyer hire his brother as a legislative consultant, but “did
not instruct” the lawyer to do so.
Fuelberg also said he was unaware until after he left Pedernales that the
lawyer, Walter Demond, was using co-op money to pay the son of a co-op board
member. Fuelberg said he never told Demond to pay $2,000 a month to the
board member’s son, attorney Bill Price.
Prosecutors are trying to prove Fuelberg committed theft and money
laundering by funneling cooperative money to his lobbyist brother, Curtis
Fuelberg, and Bill Price, the son of a former director. Demond faces the
same charges in a trial next year.
After an arrangement for his brother Curtis Fuelberg to lobby for the Texas
Electric Cooperatives association did not work out, Fuelberg said he called
Demond and suggested the law firm of Clark, Thomas & Winters hire Curtis
Fuelberg, and the co-op would put up $5,000 a month to pay for it.
However, “I did not instruct Walter Demond,” to hire Curtis Fuelberg, he
Fuelberg said he wanted to keep the arrangement to pay his brother secret
from the board, which included W.W. Burnett, the former board president
whose duties were to include being a government liaison. Witnesses have
testified Burnett was not performing that role.
Defense attorney Chris Gunter asked Fuelberg if he considered hiring his
brother directly. Fuelberg said he did not, but may have thought about it.
“I probably had two major concerns. I didn’t want to offend the president of
my board who had a responsibility to fulfill those duties,” Fuelberg said.
“The second was that I thought it might look bad.”
Also, “I had made it clear to Walter that we wanted to keep it from the
board so as not to offend Judge Burnett.”
When asked by Gunter whether it was a good decision or not, Fuelberg said he
now believes it was not.
“I feel that that was poor judgment on my part,” Fuelberg said. “It has had
a tremendous effect on me. Even though I felt I had the authority at the
time, and still do, the judgment not to tell the board has caused me a lot
of pain, and my family a lot of pain.”
As for the payments to Bill Price, the son of board member E.B. Price,
Fuelberg said the board was discussing health care costs at a 2003 meeting.
Later, the elder Price mentioned to Fuelberg that Bill Price was having a
hard time making $2,000 a month health insurance payments for his family
members while running his own Lampasas law firm.
Fuelberg testified he mentioned it in a conversation to Demond, who had also
been at that meeting.
“As part of the conversation, I asked if Clark Thomas ever used local
counsel in a local case or for business development,” Fuelberg said. “I
suggested if they ever did, Bill Price was a good young attorney they could
However, he said, “I did not instruct Walter Demond to hire Bill Price.”
Fuelberg also said he did not know until after he retired in 2008 that co-op
money was used to pay Bill Price $2,000 a month.
He also testified this morning about his upbringing in Brenham, his
decorated service in the Vietnam War, and his career with Pedernales. He
said his authority grew as the co-op did in the more than 30 years he worked
More to come later.
Milton Hawkins milton.hawkins at gmail.com
P.O. Box 1502
Johnson City, Texas 78636-1502
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