[Watchdogs] "Make PEC's Fuelberg an example: Crime doesn't pay" [Editorial Board, Austin American-Statesman], Plus a Comment
milton.hawkins at gmail.com
Mon Dec 27 09:00:24 CST 2010
Make PEC's Fuelberg an example: Crime doesn't pay Editorial Board
Published: 6:43 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
Now that a Gillespie County jury has convicted Bennie Fuelberg on three
felony charges that include theft and money laundering, the question of
appropriate punishment has yet to be answered.
Fuelberg, who ran the Pedernales Electric Cooperative like his private
fiefdom, awaits sentencing next month by state District Judge Dan Mills.
Mills has the option of sending Fuelberg to prison despite the probation and
$30,000 fine recommendation by the jury, and he certainly has the authority
to order restitution.
There is little doubt that Mills will order restitution; the question is how
much. The jury fined Fuelberg $30,000 — the maximum $10,000 each on the
three felony convictions.
Last week, the utility's board voted to instruct the co-op's lawyers put a
price tag on the damage Fuelberg did to the organization during his three
decades as top hand.
By now you know the story of Fuelberg's iron-fisted management of the
agency, of the inflated salaries paid the board of directors and the lavish
spending of co-op funds. Fuelberg was convicted of third-degree felony
theft, money laundering and misapplication of fiduciary duty after
revelations that more than $700,000 was funneled to the co-op's outside law
firm and paid to Fuelberg's brother and the son of a board member.
Walter Demond, the co-op's lawyer during Fuelberg's tenure, is awaiting
trial on similar charges.
The research the co-op board wants done will determine the restitution
amount the board will ask Mills to assess.
Also being discussed is the $12,000 in monthly pension Fuelberg is drawing —
an amount awarded before the board turned over in the wake of the spending
scandal that led to Fuelberg's indictment and conviction. The revelations
came after co-op shareholders filed suit and the American-Statesman
published hundreds of articles and editorials detailing Fuelberg's excesses
and the board's oversight failures. The board resolution aims at recovering
the money that was misused or stolen and the resulting legal fees.
PEC board member Ross Fischer, a San Antonio lawyer and former chairman of
the Texas Ethics Commission, noted that it wouldn't be easy to assess a
value on all of the damage Fuelberg did.
"I understand the process and how it works," said Fischer, a former
prosecutor. "It's hard to put a monetary value on the damage done to PEC's
That indeed will be the hard part.
The recommendation for probation has stirred plenty of emotion in those who
want to see Fuelberg behind bars. But as we noted previously, Fuelberg is a
first-time offender with a distinguished war record — the kind of defendant
who is normally granted probation.
Making Fuelberg give back as much of the PEC money he misused over the years
would send a long, loud message to anyone in a position of public trust that
crime really doesn't pay.
As for restoring the PEC's reputation, that's up to the current board. It
took the right steps in exploring its options and rights in the Fuelberg
Now that Fuelberg has been judged, the board has an obligation to oversee
the utility in an open and forthright manner so that his excesses aren't
repeated. The board will be judged every day from here forward on how well
it does that.
Find this article at:
[One reader's comments:
Dave at collinda<http://www.statesman.com/sitelife/?newspaperUserId=9423475&plckUserId=9423475>
8:22 AM on December 27, 2010
Lame, lame, lame.
First, PEC is not an "agency," but a not-for-profit corporation owned by its
Next, the Editorial Board refers to Mr. Fuelberg as a "first-time offender."
Technically that is true, but so far from descriptive as to be laughable.
That he avoided early detection and prosecution does not change what is well
known to many members; the man is a serial offender who expresses no remorse
or admission of wrong doing.
Last, the Editorial Board waves the bloody shirt of prior military service.
Well, I spent 19 months as a Marine in Viet Nam. I am deeply offended at the
notion that his service in that war is in some way mitigation of his plunder
of the co-op and the wrong done its members and employees - many of whom are
Judge Mills needs to use the full power of his office to send a strong
message, as the headline suggests. That is best done by depriving him of
both his ill-gotten gain AND his freedom. Jail him for the maximum allowed
under the law.
Milton Hawkins milton.hawkins at gmail.com
P.O. Box 1502
Johnson City, Texas 78636-1502
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