The defense is arguing that Bennie Fuelberg had the authority to hire and pay anyone he wished and that his actions do not constitute theft
Note: This comment on the Fuelberg trial is from long time PEC observer and watchdog Milton Hawkins, taken from the pec4u Watchdogs discussion forum. Mr. Hawkins is a Johnson City area resident. He has attended the trial in Fredericksburg and has followed the developments since it began Nov. 28.
Get ready to pay Bennie's defense expenses. This afternoon R.B. Felps (former PEC board director) made Chris Gunter's day.
The defense has been based on two main points: (1) Bennie did not violate any policy, directive, or agreement in arranging the hiring by CTW (Clark, Thomas & Winters) of Curtis and Bill, and (2) there was no theft (a) in the diversion of PEC funds to Curtis because Curtis was in position to act to benefit PEC and (b) no theft in the case of the diversion to Bill because Bennie did not know (so it is said) that CTW was billing PEC for a portion of the payments to Bill.
R.B. testified that Bennie had been given full authority to do what he did, that there was no requirement that Bennie notify the directors, and that Curtis may have been (or could have been) of value or potential value. (R.B. would not agree that Bennie's taking money from PEC and giving it to Curtis, who according to the prosecutor had not done "a lick of work for PE," was theft.)
If the rest of the directors testify as R.B. did, and I fully expect that they will (the Board had practically given all their authority and power to Bennie, after all), then I don't know what the prosecution has left.
The nepotism policy that was in place in 1996 and thereafter applied to employees, not outside contractors, according to R.B., so that's apparently no help.
And there you have it. It's just as the Navigant Report said it was: the Board was missing in action, letting Bennie run PEC as he pleased.
So, when the accused and indicted employee wins, insurance doesn't cover the cost. We do (member-customers). The Board hasn't been able to bring itself to pay Gunter's current bill of less than $40,000. Wait till they (and we, of course) are faced with $400,000! Or more.
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Read the complete story at this link: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/former-pedernales-outside-lawyer-misled-firm-about-secret-1103762.html
Links here, here, here and here to earlier reports on the trial by George.
By Patrick George
Published: 10:35 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, 2010
FREDERICKSBURG — An arrangement to use an Austin law firm to make secret payments to relatives of Pedernales Electric Cooperative officials was made at the direction of Bennie Fuelberg, but without the knowledge of the firm's top leaders, two lawyers testified Monday.
Fuelberg and Walter Demond, the former Clark Thomas attorney who represented the co-op, face charges of felony theft and money laundering in connection with the payments to Fuelberg's lobbyist brother, Curtis Fuelberg, and Bill Price, son of former co-op board member E.B. Price.
Larry McNeill , president of the law firm until this March, and shareholder David Duggins testified that Demond had told them Pedernales money was not used to pay Curtis Fuelberg and Bill Price. Demond later admitted that was false, they said, when a damning audit of the cooperative was looming.
McNeill and Duggins also said Demond claimed the co-op's board of directors approved the hiring arrangement. Last week, former members of that board said they were not told of the payments.
The two lawyers initially testified out of the hearing of the jury while defense attorneys tried to have the testimony declared inadmissible as hearsay. However, state District Judge Dan Mills decided to allow it. The defense is arguing that Bennie Fuelberg had the authority to hire and pay anyone he wished and that his actions do not constitute theft.