Thursday, December 30, 2010

Life long teacher and mentor Dee Ann Story passes Dec. 26 in Wimberley

As a teacher and mentor, she made a profound impact on her students' lives. Today, they carry on her legacy at universities and research institutions across the country

Eminent Texas archeologist Dee Ann Suhm Story passed away on Dec. 26, 2010 at her home in Wimberley after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Dee Ann points to an exhibit
at the historical Wimberley-Winters House

She was born to Emma and Eugene Suhm in Houston on Dec. 12, 1931, and was preceded in death by her parents; her sister Beverly Morgan; and her husband Hal, whom she married in October of 1961. She is survived by four beloved nephews: Clayton Morgan, Tim Morgan and Matt Morgan of Austin and Russell Morgan of Houston; her many friends from around the world; and her faithful dog, Callie.

Raised in Houston, Dee Ann attended Texas Womens University in Denton and received two degrees in anthropology from The University of Texas at Austin; a Bachelor of Arts in 1953 and a Masters of Arts degree in 1956.

She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1963 where she was one of the first women to graduate from that program.

Dr. Dee Ann Story organized and directed the archeological laboratory at the University of Utah and participated in archeological fieldwork documenting sites before the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam.

She was one of the earliest women to actually work in the field alongside her male colleagues.

Her mentors at The University of Texas convinced Dr. Story to return to Texas, where she became Assistant Director for the Texas Archeological Salvage Project and taught in the Anthropology Department. From 1965 to 1987, she served as the first Director of the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory in addition to her teaching responsibilities as a professor. She co-authored the influential Handbook of Texas Archeology which established a typology for the artifacts of Texas' prehistory.

Dr. Story became Professor Emeritus upon her retirement in 1987. Dr. Story's accomplished career in archaeology and teaching included publication of many articles and monographs on Texas archaeology, directing numerous major archaeological and research projects in Texas, and instructing and inspiring her many students.

As a teacher and mentor, she made a profound impact on her students' lives. Today, they carry on her legacy at universities and research institutions across the country.

Her main field of research focused on the ancestral Caddo culture of East Texas where she conducted fieldwork at Caddoan Mounds for many years. Her deep understanding of other cultures earned her honorary membership in the Caddo Tribe.

Dr. Story took an active role in both national and regional professional societies, including the American Anthropological Association, Society for American Archaeology, Society for Historical Archaeology, Plains Anthropological Society, Arkansas Archaeological Society and Texas Archaeological Society.

Her many awards are too numerous to list, but she was particularly proud of being awarded the Curtis D. Tunnell Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Archeological Society and the Betty Lee Wright Award for Democratic Leadership from the Wimberley Democrats.

Dee Ann retired from The University in 1987 and subsequently moved to Wimberley with Hal. Her work had just begun, however, as she became active in the community serving on numerous boards and acting as a trusted adviser to: the Wimberley Institute of Cultures, the Hays County Historical Commission, the Wimberley Players, the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, the League of Women Voters and the Wimberley Democrats (or Wim Dems).

Her devotion to the Wimberley Institute of Cultures included serving as president of the Board and establishing a historical archive (now named in her honor). Dee Ann's annual birthday party, cleverly disguised as a Christmas party, became the social event of the year in Wimberley.

She also continued her professional activities by serving on the boards of the Archeological Conservancy and the Shumla School and continuing to advise on archeological sites across the State.

Dee Ann and Hal granted a conservation easement to the Archaeological Conservancy for a prehistoric site located on family land. She named the site, which of course she discovered, after her parents whom supported her in all her endeavors.

A visit with Dee Ann in Wimberley always led to stories from her extensive travels that took her to every continent in the world. Accompanied by dear friends, she visited Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland, Canada, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, China, the Mediterranean, Mexico, Central America, the Galapagos, India, Bhutan, most every National Park in the U.S., and reluctantly, Europe.

Dee Ann's admiration for the work of the Archeological Conservancy gave her an excuse to embark on every one of their archeological tours, usually more than once. Her love and understanding of other cultures — and of wildlife — followed her in these travels.

There were few places she travelled that would not reveal a new archeological site to her, and the professor would emerge as she taught her fellow travelers about the significance of her find. Antarctica and Africa were amongst her favorite places in the world, reflecting her admiration and fascination for geology and elephants.

Dee Ann's love for her pets is legendary. Creature, a rescued blue jay that refused to rejoin the wild, protected her from friends and foes alike. Creature travelled extensively with Dee Ann and Hal, visiting most of the major national parks. Her dogs, Bridgett, Humphrey and Ginger, were constant companions, as were her loyal herd of deer and her amazing fish.

Dee Ann considered dying a considerable inconvenience, as she had so much yet to accomplish.

She will be missed by her family, many friends and her colleagues, but memories of her will last all our lifetimes. A memorial service is pending.

Donations in her memory may be made to The Dee Ann Story Educational Fund (P.O. Box 2788, Wimberley, TX 78676) or the Archeological Conservancy (5301 Central Ave. NE, Suite 902, Albuquerque, NM 87108). A scholarship in her honor, the Dr. Dee Ann Story East Texas Archeology Scholarship, was recently established at Stephen F. Austin State University (P.O. Box 6096-SFA Station, Nacogdoches, TX, 75962).

Plans for a memorial service will be announced in the near future.

Please sign the online guest registry at

Thomason Funeral Home, Wimberley, (512) 847-2226.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Good tidings to all!

Feel free to use this space as an open forum. Click on the comments button below.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hays County in 2011 and beyond: A big load of debt and tax hikes

Those of us who call Hays County "home" will be well-served to get our own minds around this very big issue, and become more actively involved in pursuing a more life-honoring, spirit-honoring course. More spending, debt and taxes will not serve us well.

What do you get when you have a county budget of $243 million, of which more than half is debt for big capital projects like new roads, parks and a new county government center, and revenues of around $80 million? What you get is that difficult spot between a rock and a hard place. It's where our county government and newly elected members of the county commissioners court will be come January. By our reckoning, only a handful of citizens and county officials are aware of the ballooning debt predicament. We figure the rest of the population of Hays County is blissfully unaware of the facts. So we appreciate Mr. Brannon's well researched information and his efforts to spread the news and recruit more concerned citizens to tell the story.

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. Brannon at, to incoming County Judge Bert Cobb at or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Sam Brannon

Guest Commentary

As we're all settling in with family and friends to enjoy the holiday season, let's take a brief look ahead to the coming year, because we've got a lot of "stuffed stockings" coming our way from our local elected officials.

According to the Hays County Auditor's office (chart below), the County's property tax rates are scheduled to increase from $.4692 for 2011 to $.4814 in 2012, and to $.4950 in 2013, or quite possibly even higher.
Click on chart to enlarge

In fact, Hays County property owners can expect higher tax rates for at least the next 13 years, perhaps more, if we don't meet the appraised value projections or sales tax projections. Most of the people that I speak with are not aware of this, and it will affect all of us – renters, property owners, individuals and businesses.

The good news is that we can actually do something about it, and there is a growing interest in doing so.

First, the federal and state spend and tax context

The spending and the debt levels in our federal government are out of control and unsustainable. There's little hope that any real change of direction will be made, even with a newly installed Republican Congress. The vast majority of the current discussion is about the revenue side of the equation (taxes), with little to no attention paid on spending. Taxpayers are beginning to understand how close we're coming to what might seem to be some rather dire outcomes, possibly including a dollar collapse and hyperinflation.

Two weeks ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that he expects "unemployment will not improve for another 4 to 5 years." That's astonishing because Ben Bernanke is known for painting rather jolly pictures of the economy. Right before the mortgage collapse, he was telling us everything was A-OK, and just before the banking collapse, another A-OK. This past summer many of us were surprised when we were told that the recession actually ended 18 months ago. We'd be wise to take the unemployment warning as the Fed's queue that things could get pretty rough for a lot of us in the coming years.

REAL unemployment today probably is in the 20-25% range. What do I mean by "real"? If we were measuring unemployment today like we were in 1994 before some key changes were made in the calculations, the unemployment rate today would certainly be over 20%. There are many resources that explain the math. The Shadow Government Statistics website explains it fairly well.

At the state level, the powers around Austin are trying to decide how much of an increase in taxes and fees they can slide by Texans, or how many wafer-thin slices they can pull from the various departments. While we can hope for better things, right now it sounds like higher taxes are coming.

In short, I don't see any real resistance to the trend of higher taxes at either the state or federal levels. The bi-partisan momentum for More Government is very difficult to stop.

The county's accumulating debt and high foreclosure rate

I'm of the mind that we can do much better focusing our attention locally, and I'm pleased that there are quite a few good folks here in the County interested in doing so.

It was just a couple of months ago that I and a group of Hays residents successfully stopped a 2011 tax rate hike, holding the current rate at $.4692. Unfortunately, unless we lead the County to make some significant changes in direction, we'll soon be considering this "the good old days."

Click on chart to enlarge
One major issue is Hays County's accumulating debt. The County currently carries over $250 million in debt, of which about $225 million was borrowed between 2006 and 2010. The county plans to spend about $243 million in 2011, which includes $76 million to run the county departments, $17 million for interest and principal on our existing debt and $150 million for construction projects such as roads, the new government center, and parks and conservation land projects. However in 2011, the county only anticipates revenues of about $81 million (taxes and other sources) so the county debt will most certainly be rising, along with our taxes, beyond what you see in the chart taken from a county budget report.

Meanwhile, Hays County has seen about 4,000 properties go into foreclosure in the past three years, affecting about 10% of all households. In 2008, 16% of Hays County children were already living below the poverty line, and that has no doubt increased since. Again, looking at Ben Bernanke's unemployment forecast, it would appear that more of our friends and neighbors will continue to struggle.

Our newly-elected and returning County officials would be well-served to get their minds around the scheduled tax and debt increases, and to begin articulating a plan to address them. Due to the nature of the political process, they'll need our help in changing the current County fiscal momentum. Those of us who call Hays County "home" will be well-served to get our own minds around the problem, and become more actively involved in pursuing a more life-honoring, spirit-honoring course. More spending, debt and taxes will not serve us.

It's time to begin having more direct and more regular conversations with our elected county officials, as well as at our school districts, cities and other municipalities. They're all heading in the same direction – more spending, more taxes, more debt. Maintaining the status quo of borrow-tax-spend will cost us much, well beyond any calculations in dollars.

High taxes and debt makes slaves of otherwise free people – that's an historical truth that we seem to be ignoring at our own risk. These are the days in which we choose to either jealously guard our freedom, or accept the debt and tax servitude that is heading our way.

"Public debt is the greatest of the dangers to be feared."
– Thomas Jefferson

Get involved in creating answers

Our reliance on government to solve our problems clearly isn't working. It is becoming obvious that we'll have to create our own answers, and I'm confident that we have all the resources required to do so among our friends and neighbors. To the extent that we articulate and pursue our own vision, the politics will follow. Simple stuff.

We currently have 4 volunteers working on the Hays Citizens' Budget project. Our goal is to craft budget recommendations by the end of January, and begin taking them out to the community and our elected officials for feedback in February, before making final recommendations to the Commissioners Court in early March 2011. If you are a member of an organization or group and would like to have us in for a presentation in February, we'd like to get your feedback on our findings and recommendations.

I'm not aware of any particular ongoing efforts at the school districts or municipalities, but if readers know of any, or would like to coordinate with us, we would love to hear from you.

Another interesting project we're preparing to kick off is Hays Food Source to identify how much food Hays County produces, and to understand how far outside the county we would have to go in order to feed the 150,000 or so Hays County residents. This project is sort of a cross between local/organic farming and emergency preparedness. Right now we're looking for interested participants and some subject matter experts to help guide the project, so I'm looking to make contact with local growers and "farm and ranch" types.

If these or other projects are of interest to you, write to me at:

Enjoy your holidays, and get your rest. If you're concerned about the growing debt and taxes in Hays County, we'll be looking for your help early in the coming year.

Sam Brannon was a cog, as he puts it, in the machinery of "Corporate America" for 17 years, in the supply chain, corporate finance and software industries. His last role was VP of Client Solutions for an international supply chain consulting firm. In 2006, Brannon left his career and began four years of traveling abroad. Now back in San Marcos, he attends Hays County Commissioners Court regularly, and is an advocate of lower taxes and less spending at all levels of government. Brannon earned his BBA in Finance at the University of Texas at Austin.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Petition opposes draconian security measures at Austin Airport

For all you folks who are traveling by air to your Christmas destination, we found this little video that takes a humorous jab at the draconian security measures being put in place at major airports around the country. There's talk that the AIT (Advance Imaging Technology . . . potentially harmful x-ray scanner that sees through your clothes) and the embarrassingly invasive Pat Downs may be started at Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

A petition is circulating opposing such severe measures being imposed on air travelers at the Austin Airport. Here's the link: About 100 have signed it already.

You may recall a recent column RoundUp Contributing Editor Charles O'Dell wrote about his refusal to be party to either of the invasive procedures at the Baltimore Airport, so he took the long ride home on a bus. He'll be traveling to the West Coast this Christmas, departing Thursday from Austin BIA. He says he may have to again resort to the bus on his return trip. "Please sign the petition," he said, "and help keep me off a bus."

We are reminded of this famous quote from Thomas Jefferson: "The natural progress of things is for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield."

PEC Board votes to seek restitution in Fuelberg sentencing

Update, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010: Not reported in the story below, nor any other we have seen, is the 5.5% pay raise for PEC employees and managers passed by the Board of Directors at their Monday meeting. The vote was not unanimous. Board President Larry Landaker and Director Cristi Clement voted against the "methodology" (Key Performance Indicators) used in arriving at the raise. PEC Communications Manager Michael Racis told the RoundUp the raise actually is a one-time "performance bonus" based on overall performance measurements of the co-op. The bonus was capped at $7,500. Racis said the cost to the PEC for the Christmas bonus comes in at $2.7 million. A bonus of 5.8% of base pay also was awarded to employees last year, which did not have a cap.

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comment" button at the bottom of the story

By Zeke MacCormack
San Antonio Express-News
Published Tuesday December 21, 2010

Read the complete story here

JOHNSON CITY — The Pedernales Electric Cooperative plans to seek court-ordered restitution from its felonious former general manager, Bennie Fuelberg, but some ratepayers also want to end his $12,638 monthly pension and sue him for back wages.

“Hire an attorney skilled in forfeiture litigation and move aggressively to protect our interests,” Milton Hawkins, a co-op member from Blanco County, urged the group's board of directors at its meeting Monday.

Other members demanded sharp cuts to administrative spending, saying ratepayers have been soaked for more than $100 million in excesses begun during Fuelberg's 32 years leading the utility.

The board voted, without comment, to have its lawyer prepare a victim impact statement seeking restitution in advance of Fuelberg's sentencing hearing here Jan 14.

Before the meeting, board president Larry Landaker said of the pension, restitution and back-wage issues that “in light of the conviction, all issues regarding this matter should be considered.”

Fuelberg, who retired in 2008, was convicted at trial Dec. 10 of third-degree felony theft, money laundering and misappropriation of fiduciary property concerning the misuse of between $20,000 and $100,000 in utility funds.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Member to PEC: Stop the unnecessary and excessive spending

Wimberley retired economist Merle Moden, long a critic of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative's spending habits, will be in attendance at this morning's PEC Board of Directors meeting. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the co-op's Johnson City headquarters. Moden says he will present Directors with a documented list of millions in unnecessary and excessive expenditures. It adds up, he said, to the PEC distinguishing itself as "one of most cost-inefficient electric cooperatives in the U. S." Moden last week sent the letter below to PEC Directors. We'll try to catch up with Mr. Moden, and a Director or two, for an update following the meeting. Fyi, the Navigant report referred to by Moden once was, but no longer is posted on PEC's recently refurbished web site. The website's retooling cost a reported $750,000 – for what we're not sure. It is colorful but we find it a little cumbersome to navigate or to find details about the co-op's business costs and expenditures.

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. Moden at, to PEC board president Larry Landaker at, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Dear Members of the Board:

I was present when Mr. Todd Lester, Navigant Consulting testified in the punishment phase of the trial of Bennie Fuelberg in Fredericksburg. His testimony reminds one again of the utter contempt that former Boards of Directors of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (PEC) and General Manager Bennie Fuelberg had for the members of the PEC. The Navigant Report, December 2008 lays out in great detail their failure to carry out their duties as fiduciaries in a responsible manner.

The Navigant Report functions as an investigative report and as a horror story for PEC members characterized by reckless, irresponsible, unnecessary, and excessive expenditures of members’ money. Appendix B, Key Ratio Trend Analysis, of the Navigant Report provides graphic evidence of the dismal failure of governance and management at the PEC to preserve the assets of the PEC. Estimates of the fiscal impacts of some of these failures are shown below.

Appendix B, Pages 32, 34, and 36 show comparative annual expenses per customer for Accounting Expense, Sales & Service Expense, and Administrative & General Expense. PEC expenses in these three (3) categories are compared to the Texas Median Value and to the Peer Group (all U. S. electric cooperatives with 100,000 members or more) Median Value. Enclosed are copies of a spreadsheet and a graph showing comparative data for these three categories combined. For the period 2002 through 2007, an estimated $141.7 million was wasted by PEC’s governance and management when compared to PEC’s Peer Group.

Appendix B, Page 41 compares annual Total Cost per Customer. Enclosed are copies of a spreadsheet and a graph showing comparative data for Total Cost per Customer. For the period 2002 through 2007, an estimated $306.4 million was wasted by PEC’s governance and management when compared to PEC’s Peer Group.

It is time to take action to roll back the wave of unnecessary and excessive spending from the Fuelberg era. It has been two years since the Navigant Report was released. The Board in 2008 failed to act to eliminate unnecessary and excessive expenditures in the 2009 budget. The Board in 2009 failed to act to eliminate unnecessary and excessive expenditures in the 2010 budget.

Will this Board take a stand and begin the process of making PEC compare favorably with its Peer Group? Or, will the 2011 budget be business as usual? The PEC is the largest electric cooperative in the U. S. Is this Board satisfied with the distinction that it is also one of most cost-inefficient electric cooperatives in the U. S.?

Please take action now to eliminate these unnecessary and excessive expenditures.

Thank you for your consideration.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Water Board approves $2.5 million for GBRA groundwater supply study

Joe Cooper, General Mgr LPGCD/TWDB Video

Note: GBRA, probably the largest water supplier in Hays County, yesterday inched a step closer to supplementing its supply from groundwater resources in Lee and Bastrop counties (the Simsboro project). GBRA proposes taking 56,000 acre-feet (18.2 billion gallons) annually. Joe Cooper, general manager of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, cautioned Texas Water Development Board members that his district can not afford to export groundwater. "We're concerned our local groundwater supplies may not be sufficient to meet our own local needs . . . all pending (pumping) requests can't be met by our district . . . if only half the water being requested is pumped it will lower our aquifer an additional 250 feet; it will far exceed our DFC (Desired Future Conditions) and our neighbors' DFCs."

Allen Penn of Bastrop introduced himself at yesterday's Water Development Board meeting as an independent voter, "favoring the Republican agenda, until recently." Penn told the board a substantial overdraft of the Simsboro Aquifer would leave it vulnerable to infiltration "by any surface or subsurface contaminant, foul water, gas, sewage, liquid bacteria waste, chemical waste . . . if the water commission fails to prevent these situations which endanger our water supply or, far worse, proceeds with plans for major overdrafting as suggested, the federal EPA is waiting in the wings to overstep any State of Texas agency acting in an incompetent or indecisive manner . . . gentlemen, you can drink contaminated water but you won't live long doing it."

See the video of the board's proceedings at this link (Mr. Cooper and Mr. Penn make their statements beginning at about the 1:03:00 mark in the video):

Send your comments and news tips to, to the Lost Pines GCD at or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

News Release/TWDB
For immediate release Contact: Leslie Anderson 512-463-7855

AUSTIN – (December 16, 2010) – The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) today approved by resolution a loan in the amount of $2.5 million from the Water Infrastructure Fund to the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (Hays, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Comal, Bastrop, Lee and Kendall Counties) to finance development costs of the Simsboro Water Supply Project.

With these funds, the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (Authority) will perform a study of the proposed Simsboro Water Supply Project (Project). As part of this feasibility and planning study, the Authority will evaluate the location of the well fields, available groundwater supplies, construction of major raw water transmission lines, storage facilities, booster pumping stations, possible additional groundwater supplies, and expansions and possible enhancements to treatment facilities in San Marcos.

The proposed Simsboro Water Supply Project would directly supplement the water supplies for customers in Hays, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, and Kendall Counties and indirectly supplements supplies for all of the Authority’s customers.

The Authority was created by the Legislature in 1935 charged with the responsibility for the development and protection of the surface water resources of the Guadalupe River and its tributaries. The Authority provides service to Caldwell, Calhoun, Comal, DeWitt, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Hays, Kendall, Refugio, and Victoria counties. The Authority’s service area has an estimated population of 463,946.

The TWDB is the state agency charged with collecting and disseminating water-related data, assisting with regional planning and preparing the State Water Plan for the development of the state’s water resources. The TWDB administers cost-effective financial programs for the construction of water supply, wastewater treatment, flood control, and agricultural water conservation projects.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is Top Secret America coming to Hays County?

They have a lot of unanswered questions and are seeking assurances that the quality of life they invested in will not be diminished or destroyed by a top-secret facility to be plopped down in their neighborhood

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Note: The RoundUp has a call in to Mr. Thompson with the City of Dripping Springs to see if we can shed more light on this project.

Update, Friday Dec. 17 -- Mr. Thompson was kind enough to return our call. He said Espy's proposed site includes a 14,000 square-foot, two-story size building that will serve as the corporation's new headquarters.
Thompson said, according to Espy representatives, they "assemble computer parts and write software . . . I can tell you, from their website their clients (include the CIA). If they do surveillance, that didn't come up. They said last night right now they have eight employees."

Thompson said Espy was directed by the city to hold the town hall meeting.
"There's nothing wrong with meeting your neighbors. It doesn't change the approval factor but it helps the neighbors know who you are." He said Espy will have to address certain site plan changes and comments from the city, county and the public before final approval for construction is granted, most likely next month.

Charles O'Dell attended Thursday night's town hall. He sent this dispatch:

About thirty concerned homeowners attending the hour and a half long “town hall” meeting held last night in Dripping Springs City Hall had wide ranging questions and concerns for representatives of the ESPY Corporation, Hays County and Dripping Springs. Comments and questions ranged from increased traffic and road safety to the septic system, water quality and impact on property values and quality of life in the residential neighborhood.

While orderly and respectful, it was clear that at times many homeowners were frustrated by a lack of candor or understanding about why they were concerned with having this shadowy commercial operation in their backyards. A number of promises were made by the ESPY representative but not all the homeowners were convinced about the sincerity.

As one homeowner expressed afterwards, “I guess we feel a bit better about some things (lighting, trucks). Still very leery about what they do (the business they are in) and how this building will impact our quality of life.” Another homeowner was even more direct, “I think the rep from ESPY was defensive and plain doesn't get why we might be upset.”

One neighbor summed it up, “I feel a bit better about the development itself but have zero confidence in their capacity to act as ‘good neighbors.’”

According to Jon Thompson, Development Coordinator for the City of Dripping Springs, he expects to administratively approve the project in about three weeks after corrections pointed out by homeowners are made to the site plan. The ESPY representative expects construction of the new facility to be completed by the end of 2011.

One thing is clear. For good or for ill, the future of this out-of-the-way Dripping Springs ETJ residential neighborhood is now directly linked to the Top-Secret America network as ESPY Corporation moves to a rural area in Hays County.

An Exclusive RoundUp Report

When residents near the Polo Club and Sunset Canyon approached HaysCAN for help in dealing with a mysterious site development plan we weren’t prepared for what we found. It quickly became clear this was no ordinary development project in the City’s huge extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).

Jon Thompson, Development Director for the City of Dripping Springs, explained to homeowners that he was approving the project administratively, (there would be no review by Planning & Zoning Commission or approval by City Council). A cursory review of the development plan immediately raised questions about why the Plan referenced Austin ordinances instead of Dripping Springs ordinances, was incomplete and even contradictory, and why the City’s Development Director seemed ready to approve the Plan despite concerns and questions of nearby property owners about the project.

Large antennae had been erected on the 24-acre site located on Trautwein Road about a mile off US Hwy 290 West before the Plan was approved by Thompson. These antennae were not shown on the Plan presented. Nearby residents were told the antennae were for company computers that would be used when the new facility was completed. Residents were also told there would be recreational activities conducted on the property that involved ATV’s and other equipment.

See a Frontline video regarding the post 9/11 explosion of secret collaboration between the intelligence community, local law enforcement and private companies employing a million individuals engaged in gathering and analyzing information about every day Americans.

Following a two-year investigation by Washington Post reporter, Dana Priest and free lance researcher, William M. Arkin, they published the first in a series of articles, "A Hidden World, Growing Beyond Control," in which they report:

“The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

One of those top-secret participants is Espy Corporation (listed in the Washington Post article and here), a private Austin company that is now seeking approval of its site development plan for a secret facility to be located in the middle of a residential area in the Dripping Springs ETJ.

Local residents seeking straight answers from City officials and from ESPY will gather at a 7pm town hall meeting tonight in the Dripping Springs City Hall.

They have a lot of unanswered questions and are seeking assurances that the quality of life they invested in will not be diminished or destroyed by a top-secret facility to be plopped down in their neighborhood. As one neighbor put it, “A top-secret facility involved in electronic spying shouldn’t be located near homes with personal computers and other communication devices.”

The public is invited to attend tonight’s town hall meeting.

Sugar Plums for the wealthiest under Bush tax cut Christmas tree

During an 8-year period, the top 400 wealthiest people each saw an increase, on average, of $1 billion apiece. Together, these 400 families have a collective net of $1.27 trillion

Note: In his latest commentary on economic matters, Mr. Boschert asks who our government and politicians really favor this Christmas season:
the rich and the famous, or regular middle class Joe and Jane Blow who maybe are out of work or barely making ends meet? Let's expand the question and ask whether you employed folks with a salary, small business owners and/or retirees have seen any real growth in your incomes at any time over the past 10 years? And for good measure - with the end of the tax year approaching - what effect will an extension of the Bush era tax cut have on your income bottom lines? The big debate in Washington has been whether to extend the tax cut for the wealthiest or let it expire and take the gains in tax revenues to pay down the national debt (see poll in top left hand column). The debate on that question, of course, is officially over. The House of Representatives is set to approve an $850 billion tax cut bill this week or next, including the tax cut extension for the very well to do, and send it over to President Obama for his signature just in time for Christmas.

Who says the season isn't magical? Lyrics to the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy:

See the candy fairies, sugar-plums, jelly-beans, chocolate bars (dance the minuet), With the candied cherries, lolly-pops, peppermints, candy-canes, (as they pirouette), See the FAIRY PRINCESS curtsying, gracefully, beautifully, Swaying to the tune...Music in the air (so entrancing), Flowers in her hair (as she's dancing), Love is everywhere (Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h-h) 'Neath the yellow lemon-drop moon . (Sugar-Plum Fairy Dances), There she goes now, on her toes now, To her yellow lemon-drop moon.

By Rocky Boschert

Financial Editor

The passage of the Republican-Obama Bush tax cut extension would mean a continuation of the Bush policy of trickle-down economics that is supposed to benefit all Americans - for at least 2 more years. Is this a good thing?

The evidence appears to be quite overwhelming of who will benefit substantially and who will not. When median family income during Bush's 8 years goes down by $2,200, when we end up losing over 600,000 private sector jobs, and almost all of the job growth was in the Federal government (that is under Bush, not Obama), why would anyone want to continue that philosophy. But that, in a chestnut shell, is what will happen when this agreement is passed.

During the Bush years, the wealthiest 400 Americans saw their incomes more than double.

During an 8-year period, the top 400 wealthiest people each saw an increase, on average, of $1 billion apiece. Together, these 400 families have a collective net of $1.27 trillion.

When President Bush first took office, he inherited a $236 billion surplus in 2001 and a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion. The war in Iraq, by the time our last veteran is taken care of, will probably end up costing us something like $3 trillion, adding enormously to our national debt.

So when we talk about Iraq, it is not only the terrible loss of life that our soldiers and the Iraqi people have experienced, let's not forget what it has done to the deficit and the national debt. We did not pay for the war in Iraq. We just put it on the credit card.

James Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, received $89 million in total compensation over the last five years - a bank that we now know received hundreds of billions in low-interest loans and other financial assistance from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.

His bank was bailed out big time by the taxpayers. But under the legislation the President negotiated with the Republicans, Mr. Dimon will receive $1.1 million in tax breaks.

The Republicans filibustered a bill to provide a $250 check to disabled veterans trying to get by on $15,000 or $16,000 a year. But Mr. Dimon, who made $89 million in the last 5 years, will get a $1 million tax deduction if this agreement is passed.

The top richest 1 percent of America already today owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

According to the Citizens for Tax Justice, if the Bush tax breaks for the top 2 percent are extended, these are some of the people who will benefit and what kind of benefits they will receive:

1) Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation, would receive a $1.3 million tax break next year.

2) Vikram Pandit, the CEO of Citigroup, the bank that got a $50 billion bailout, would receive $785,000 in tax breaks.

3) Ken Lewis, the former CEO of Bank of America - a bank that got a $45 billion bailout - the guy is already fabulously wealthy - would receive a $713,000 tax break.

4) The CEO of Wells Fargo, John Stumpf, who is the CEO of Wells Fargo, would receive a $318,000 tax break every single year.

5) The CEO of Morgan Stanley, John Mack, whose bank got a $10 billion bailout, would receive a $926,000 a year tax break.

6) The CEO of Aetna, Ronald Williams, would receive a tax break worth $875,000.

Would anyone like to comment on who really controls our government and who the politicians really favor? Is there really any difference between the Dems and the Repubs when it comes to economic policy and who benefits?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Landaker: Spending efficiency will be focus of PEC board and new general manager

A new general manager will likely be hired in January or February, who Landaker says will be bound by a soon to be unveiled board-approved strategic plan that calls for "more strict financial controls."

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. Landaker at or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Bob Ochoa
Larry Landaker
Out with the old, in with the new. That's the message in the video interview below from Pedernales Electric Cooperative board president Larry Landaker, in response to the sentencing this week of the PEC's former general manager Bennie Fuelberg.

"What it means," Landaker said, "is that it is no longer possible for a board member to simply say, 'I didn't know what was going on' . . . and it is no longer going to be possible to allow anybody to run amok with a company like the board did (under) Mr. Fuelberg."

Landaker, of Wimberley, is into his second year of a three-year term on the board, and twice elected president by board members. He was first elected to the board by PEC's member-customers in June of 2009, joining other newly elected directors in what was then considered the first "democratic and open" board election since the end of the "Fuelberg era." Fuelberg resigned from PEC in 2008.

Over the years, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative has grown to become the nation's largest co-op power distributor. According to PEC's brand new website, the co-op "delivers electricity to more than 236,000 active accounts throughout 8,100 square miles — an area larger than the state of Massachusetts — and we have the most meters of any electric cooperative in the United States."

A new general manager will likely be hired in January or February, who Landaker says will be bound by a soon to be unveiled board-approved strategic plan that calls for "more strict financial controls."

Watch the video and see what Landaker has to say about what's in store for the PEC and its member-customers in the coming year. If the video is slow to load, make a sandwich, let it play to the end then replay it without interruption.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More on Fuelberg's sentencing from the Express-News

Photo: Bob Owen/Express-News

. . . the jury learned from state witnesses that Fuelberg had improperly funneled money from PEC board members to political candidates through a trust

Read the complete story here

By Zeke MacCormack
San Antonio Express-News

FREDERICKSBURG — The jury that concluded Bennie Fuelberg stole up to $100,000 from the Pedernales Electric Co-op didn't recommend prison Monday for the utility's former longtime general manager.

The panel sentenced him to a $10,000 fine and 10 years on each of three charges — to be served concurrently — but probated the prison terms in favor of community supervision.

State District Judge Dan Mills indicated he's inclined to assess jail time for the convictions for theft, money laundering and misapplication of fiduciary property. At the sentencing hearing in January, Mills can order up to 180 days in jail as a condition of probation, and will also set the length of Fuelberg's probation and determine whether to order restitution.

Prosecutor Eric Nichols plans to ask for jail time for Fuelberg, who was charged last year along with former PEC general counsel Walter Demond, who is awaiting trial. The cases concern secret payments of PEC money to Fuelberg's brother, lobbyist Curtis Fuelberg, and the son of a former PEC director, topping $700,000 combined.

Coming soon, an exclusive video interview with PEC Board President Larry Landaker

Monday, December 13, 2010

One estimate of improper expenditures by Fuelberg: $7,509,111

The jury in the money laundering and theft conviction of Bennie Fuelberg has sentenced Fuelberg to probation and a $30,000 fine. The sentencing was announced late Monday by State District Judge Dan Mills in Fredericksburg. Judge Mills will determine the terms of probation next month, which may include jail time and $84,000 in restitution. Read the details here from Statesman reporter Patrick George.

Bennie Fuelberg/Statesman
Note: We're expecting that punishment will be ordered this week, possibly today, in the conviction last week of former PEC General Manager Bennie Fuelberg. The defense is asking for probation. It may involve sentencing plus a fine and/or restitution. There's no way of telling, although there certainly has been a lot speculation. On the restitution end, long time PEC watchdog and researcher Milton Hawkins, a retired English professor and Johnson City area resident, has circulated what he believes are many of the improper expenditures approved by Fuelberg and for which restitution to the PEC should be considered, totaling $7.5 million.

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. Hawkins at or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

From Milton Hawkins:

Here's the third draft, which includes source information and identifies me as an owner-member.

I should think that anyone with this document would have a few questions (if he didn't already) to ask Luis Garcia and others if they are not forthcoming with respect to the damage Bennie did to the cooperative and its members.

Luis, as former general counsel and now acting general manager, knows the details of payments of attorneys' fees and the like, and he knows the particulars of the settlement agreements in the Worrall case and the CT&W matter. And I suppose the State will call Todd Lester to give details from the Navigant Report.

You'll know, of course, that this compilation leaves out the wasteful Texland venture itself, as well as Envision, Texas Skies, and the purchase of the Kimble Cooperative, plus lavish travel arrangements, retirement benefits, and all the rest of it.

(I left out our expenses in recovering the money in the Texland account. You'll recall that we spent a small fortune on Cox, Smith, and Matthews' ill-considered effort to get back interest as well as principal. I believe we spent almost as much as we recovered when all expenses are tabulated.)

$122,775 -- Amount taken from Texland account (Navigant Report)
$500,00 -- Amount of interest lost to Texland account in Cattleman's Bank (PEC court filing)
$19,044 -- Amount known to have been disbursed from Political Contributions Account (Navigant, pg 388)
$95,825 -- Amount of non-standard pay arrangement for Dianna Kerrigan (Navigant Report, pg 326)
$3,653 -- Amount Fuelberg spent on Godiva Chocolates (2003-07 Navigant Report, pg 272)
$7,031 -- Amount Fuelberg spent on Texas Hill Country Pecans (2003 Navigant, pg 272)
$22,384 -- Amount of questionable expenditures (2000-07 Navigant, pg 271)
$450,816 -- Amount of non-standard pay arrangements for 19 employees (2002-07 Navigant, pg 328)
$735,832 -- Amount of non-standard pay arrangement for 5 managers (2003-06 Navigant pg 326
$318,000 -- Amount of non-standard pay arrangement for Joyce Greenslade (2003-08 Navigant pg. 323-25)
$249,000 -- Amount of non-standard pay arrangement for Sandra Cunningham (2006-08 Navigant pg 323)
$800,000 -- Amount PEC owner-members paid plantiff's attorneys in Worrall class-action settlement
$1,442,814 -- Amount paid to Navigant for investigation that disclosed the diversion of funds (PEC document)
$150,000 -- Amount paid to KPMG for its "shadowing" the Navigant investigation (estimated)
$250,000 -- Amount paid to Cox, Smith & Matthews for serving as liaison in Navigant investigation (estimated)
$1,366,667 -- Amount paid to Jimmy Williamson to pursue settlement agreement with CT&W (estimated)
$703,144 -- Total fraudulent amount PEC paid to CT&W (State filing in current trial)
$272,125 -- Amount paid to outside legal counsel in relation to criminal investigation and grand jury proceedings (PEC document)

$7,509,111 -- Total estimated expenditures resulting from Fuelberg's acts

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jury finds Fuelberg guilty

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. George at or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Read the complete story, comments and updates here

By Patrick George
Friday, December 10, 2010, 01:49 PM

A Gillespie County Jury has found Bennie Fuelberg guilty of third degree theft, misapplication of fiduciary property, and money laundering.

Dripping Water Supply members call for removal of two board members

DSWSC attorney Phil Haag went out into the hallway in an effort to untangle the mess, and for about ten minutes the audience sat in awkward silence as Harris fumbled with papers on the table in front of him

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. O'Dell at, call DS Water Supply at 512.858.7897 or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Charles O'Dell
Contributing Editor

There were fireworks at a packed Dripping Springs Water Supply Corp. (DSWSC) board meeting this past Monday night as members pushed to oust two controversial directors.

When board president Steve Harris called for public comment, attorney Lynn Sherman immediately stood and announced that he represented about 135 DSWSC members and on their behalf was filing charges against Harris and fellow board member Larry Brewer.

Sherman walked over and handed the signed petition to Secretary/Treasurer, Gilbert Wolf. The petition calls for the removal of Harris and Brewer for, “violating their fiduciary duties, exceeding their authority and interfering with day-to-day Corporation operations, harassing the DSWSC General Manager and other DSWSC employees, multiple violations of the Open Meetings Act and for other actions injurious to the
Board member Brewer, left,
and board president Harris

Then Sherman called for a special membership meeting as provided for in the by-laws to remove Harris and Brewer from the DSWSC board, that they not participate in executive session or take part in any action related to this matter, and that a special membership meeting be called as soon as possible.

As Sherman sat down, board member Jim Walden began reading his motion that referenced the member charges just filed with the Secretary/Treasurer and calling for a special membership meeting for the purpose of removing Harris and Brewer.

Harris calls in deputy to squelch board member

Harris said that Walden was out of order but Walden continued reading his motion. “That’s twice,” said Harris, and when Director Walden continued with his motion Harris asked a Hays County Deputy Sheriff to “remove Mr. Walden.” Walden got up and left the meeting followed by the deputy as a member in the audience stood and questioned why Walden wasn’t allowed to make his motion.

Board member Brewer didn’t take the charges or Walden’s motion well. Brewer gathered his papers together, got up and said, “If this is what you want, it’s fine with me because you know what, you need a quorum. I’m excusing myself.” As he left the meeting, Brewer exclaimed that he hoped the dissident members had a good lawyer because, “I’ve got big bucks.”

DSWSC attorney Phil Haag went out into the hallway in an effort to untangle the mess, and for about ten minutes the audience sat in awkward silence as Harris fumbled with papers on the table in front of him.

When Walden returned and public comment resumed, a former corporate attorney for DSWSC continued with bad news for Harris. Attorney Joe Pool spoke about his research turning up three IRS liens against Harris, and along with his own civil suit against Harris said that, “I don’t want Harris representing me in any capacity, but especially having to do with budgets or discretionary spending.” The attorney called for Harris to resign.

After closing public comment, Harris pressed on with the meeting agenda.

In the first item of business, a motion to approve minutes of the previous three board meetings failed by a vote of two yeas and two abstentions. A quorum of three is required to conduct business and a majority vote of three was required to approve motions. Attorney Haag is paid $200 per hour to edit the minutes of each board meeting.

After establishing a date for the next board meeting (January, 2011), Harris moved on to the next agenda item. Walden called attention to agenda item 5b (other related business) that Harris had skipped. Walden then made his motion again under that item and called for a special membership meeting on December 27, 2010, for the purpose of removing Harris and Brewer. Harris asked attorney Haag if the motion could be considered under that agenda item and Haag said Walden’s motion needed to be taken up at the next regular board meeting or at a called special board meeting.

Motion to approve payment of unspecified legal services fails

GM Doug Cones
There was still more tension to come. During the Treasurer’s financial report, general manager Doug Cones presented an invoice from attorney Haag’s law firm (McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore) in the amount of just over $15,000, asking for board approval because portions of the invoice did not specify the basis for legal services billed. Haag explained that some of the legal costs were associated with the recent investigation conducted regarding the employee harassment complaint filed against Harris in 2009.

Harris’ motion to approve the legal services invoice failed by a vote of two yeas and two abstentions.

In his report on legal matters, Haag noted that he would review the member petition calling for removal of Harris and Brewer and would recommend, “a course of action to the board.” A course of action is clearly spelled out in the Corporation by-laws.

Later in the meeting, two board members severely criticized a Performance Review Plan for the General Manager that Haag prepared and was offering for board approval. Directors Garnett and Walden grilled Haag about the plan and made clear they didn’t see anything necessary, relevant or worthwhile with the Haag Plan. Walden expressed concern that Haag’s plan was just an employee harassment complaint against Harris being “buried,” and at great expense to the Corporation members.

Harris made a motion to table the item but it failed for lack of a second. Then the general manager, Doug Cones, said that he could live with Haag’s Performance Plan because it described what he had been doing for the past twenty four years, and, “if it would help stop the nonsense” he would be OK with the Plan. Cones already operates under a management contract negotiated by Harris. Wolf moved to approve and the motion passed 3 - 0.

Conflicts over audit and a conflict of interest

Harris continued to demonstrate a lack of understanding about the role of a capital budget, and despite repeated assurances from the auditor that the financial audit showed a “clean” and healthy financial condition of the corporation, Harris did not want to approve the audit report.

While the board was considering Code of Conduct for employees and board of directors, Walden made a final attempt to implement the conflict of interest provision contained in the by-laws when he made a motion to include in the code of conduct for board of directors prohibiting a board member voting on a motion pertaining to removal when that board member was the subject of charges seeking his/her removal.

The motion failed when Harris joined Wolf in voting nay, creating a 2 – 2 tie. Attorney Sherman leaned over and suggested to Haag that he check with the DSWSC’s Error and Omissions policy about Harris voting on his own removal as being a conflict of interest.

DSWSC members have filed charges against Harris and Brewer as called for in their by-laws, and are seeking to have both of them removed from the board if they do not resign.

The next step is for the board to convene a special membership meeting at least twenty days following the charges being filed with the Secretary/Treasurer, when the Vice President, Travis Garnett, will preside according to the by-laws, since charges have been filed against the President.

Then the matter will be up to the membership to decide because only the DSWSC members have the power to remove those who they have elected.

Harris did not respond to a request for an interview.

Fuelberg trial update: Closing arguments and no verdict yet

Note: The jury deliberating in the trial
in Fredericksburg reached no decision last night.

Read the complete story here

By Patrick George

Published Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010

Prosecutor Harry White tied together all the evidence the state presented over the past two weeks, including the contracts governing Bennie Fuelberg’s employment with Pedernales.

“Those contracts say you’ve gotta follow the rules of the co-op… which say amongst certain things, tell the truth and protect co-op assets,” he said. “So ask yourself — Did he follow that agreement? If not, he missapplied.”

He argued that Fuelberg knew exactly what was going on by signing off on invoices that included inflated charges for legal work from attorney Walter Demond at the Clark, Thomas & Winters law firm attorney - charges that paid his brother.

“This is his system. He is intentionally sending money to Curtis Fuelberg,” White said. It was a system meant to deceive the co-op board and its members, White said. “Bennie Fuelberg didn’t have the authority to do what he did. If he did, he would have been open about it.”

White called the system of mailing checks to a second party (the law firm) who sent it to a third party (Curtis Fuelberg) “classic money laundering.”

. . . Defense attorney Chris Gunter focused first on Bill Price, the son of a board member who was also paid with co-op money through the law firm.

Fuelberg has testified he knew nothing about that arrangement, though he admitted suggesting that Price might be of service to Clark, Thomas. Fuelberg “was just being nice” in asking Demond to consider Price for work, Gunter said.

“And Walter, in an effort to keep a good client happy, calls Bill Price up and puts him on retainer. Bennie never had any idea Walter was padding his bill to pay for Bill Price.”

Gunter called it “double hearsay” when Clark, Thomas attorney David Duggins testified that Demond told him Fuelberg approved the bills for both Curtis Fuelberg and Price.

“You cannot find Bennie Fuelberg guilty unless you find beyond a reasonable doubt that every element of every charge can be proven,” Gunter said. “They have not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, ladies and gentlemen, that Bennie Fuelberg knew anything about Bill Price.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fuelberg says he broke no laws in hiring of his brother

In a surprise move Wednesday after the jury was dismissed, prosecutors asked District Judge Dan Mills to allow the jury the option of considering lesser versions of the charges for Fuelberg

Closing arguments to begin Thursday

By Patrick George
Published Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2010

Read the complete story here

FREDERICKSBURG — Breaking his public silence for the first time in more than two years, former Pedernales Electric Cooperative General Manager Bennie Fuelberg testified in his trial Wednesday that he suggested the co-op’s outside lawyer hire his brother as a legislative consultant but “did not instruct” the lawyer to do so.

Though he said he now regrets not notifying the board of the hiring of his lobbyist brother Curtis Fuelberg using co-op funds paid through its outside law firm, he was adamant that he broke no laws. When asked by defense attorney Chris Gunter whether he felt he committed a crime, Fuelberg said, “I absolutely do not.”

Bennie Fuelberg also said he didn’t know until after he left Pedernales in February 2008 that the co-op’s lawyer, Walter Demond, was also using co-op money to pay $2,000 a month to the son of longtime co-op director E.B. Price.

Fuelberg insisted he never told Demond, a former partner with the Clark, Thomas & Winters law firm, to make payments to his brother or Bill Price. Bennie Fuelberg and Demond face identical charges of first-degree felony theft, money laundering and misapplication of fiduciary property in connection with the payments.

But in a surprise move Wednesday after the jury was dismissed, prosecutors asked District Judge Dan Mills to allow the jury the option of considering lesser versions of the charges for Fuelberg. Demond is to be tried next year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Defense phase to begin in trial of former PEC GM Bennie Fuelberg

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.


Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. George at, to Mr. Hawkins at or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Read the complete story at this link:

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.
Bennie Fuelberg/Statesman
As prosecutors wrapped up their case against former Pedernales General Manager Bennie Fuelberg on Monday, the final witnesses were attorneys from Pedernales' longtime outside law firm, Clark, Thomas & Winters.

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.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Which comes first, your 2nd Amendment rights or your community's quality of life?

Originally, my intention for writing this article was to make the community aware that the Gun Store's main business is class 3 weapons. Now I am even more concerned that our "little piece of heaven" is, somehow, dramatically altered by this kind of controversial business

Update, December 8: Ms. Fisher, who has taken a lot of shots for her story, has a sent a response addressing many of the critical points raised. Click on the comments button at the bottom of the story to see her response.

A concerned citizen, Anna Fisher of Wimberley, sent this report about a gun store doing business in the neighborhood that is licensed to sell class 3 military style weapons. The business occupies what used to be a country and western dance hall on RR 12 between San Marcos and Wimberley. On its website, the gun store boasts, "
From Twenty two’s to tanks, We try to have something for everyone." For hunters, gun enthusiasts and collectors, it's a virtual candy store. Most drivers passing by might think at first glance that the place is a World War II fighting machine museum. Ms. Fisher, however, takes a different tact and questions the wisdom of allowing the sale of assault weapons in the heart of a peaceful and peace loving community. She did a fair job of trying to get an answer from the gun store's owner, apparently to no avail. Nothing against a legal business trying to meet a strangely growing demand for all types of weapons that pack massive kill power. Just saying, maybe the wider community should chime in on cases like these and examine some of the more serious potential side effects. We are informed by Ms. Fisher that one of the local newspapers she called told her they probably would not run her petition as an advertisement and it's doubtful, she said, that they will even publish her report.

Send your comments and news tips to, to Ms. Fisher at, to Pct. 3 County Commissioner Will Conley at or click on the "comments" button at the bottom or the story

An Open Letter

By Anna Fisher

“If you know what you want and we have it, the whole process takes about ten minutes . . . And if we don’t have it, we can get it,” says the sales representative at the Gun Store. Recently opened on RR 12, the "Gun Store" is a Class 3 weapons dealer licensed to sell assault weapons to the general public. (The store formerly operated in San Marcos proper.)

It is not your standard hunting store. Their web site reads, “As a class 3 dealer we are licensed to buy and sell fully automatic and suppressed weapons and would be happy to walk you through the legal transfer process.”

MPI 69 with case and suppressor

According to the Western Firearms Company out of Grapevine, Texas, “Owning a class 3 weapon (machine guns/silencer) is relatively simple.” For example, the AK-47 rifle used in the September 28 shooting on the UT campus only required the purchaser to be 18 years old and have proof of residency. Class 3 weapons are referred to as “assault weapons” for a reason – their purpose is to kill people.

As a resident of this community, I was shocked to discover that a class 3 weapons dealer has moved into the area. Class 3 weapons are not personal protection weapons nor or they hunting rifles. Selling military-style weapons to the general public strikes me as incompatible with our neighborly way of life, as well as dangerous.

In an effort to understand the business of the Gun Store, I visited the store and talked with two sales representatives. They briefly described their impressive wall display of guns ranging from hunting rifles to fully-automatic rifles. In a further effort to understand his perspective, I called the store owner. Rather than returning my call, the owner asked his store manager to call me. Once again, I asked to speak to the owner and was told I could not. Since their website claims they are a “friendly” store, I was a little surprised and asked why not and was told the owner would not talk to me.

I had prepared a series of questions to ask the owner but I decided to ask the store manager only one question. I asked, “In light of the controversies surrounding sales of class 3 weapons, why do you choose to sell class 3 weapons, rather than only selling hunting guns and personal handguns?” He became defensive and said, "That is the end of this liberal interview” and hung up. There was one other question I really wanted to ask, “How does your business contribute to the quality of life of this community?”

Law enforcement agencies contacted pointed out these licensed stores operate within the law. However, does a business owner play an enabling role with the criminal market when he sells these types of products?

As to where class 3 weapons dealers can locate, these dealers are even less regulated than liquor stores, bars and gambling operations. It seems the only vehicle available for refusing to allow a gun dealer to locate within a community is zoning. Further, the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms, the federal licensing agency for gun dealers, is prohibited by the "Tiahart Amendment" from sharing their records with the public, including whether any weapons confiscated from crimes have been traced back to a particular store. The NRA successfully lobbied Congress to prohibit the computerization of gun dealer records. According to a San Marcos Homeland Security officer, it is even difficult for local law enforcement agencies to access these records.

Originally, my intention for writing this article was to make the community aware that the Gun Store's main business is class 3 weapons. Now I am even more concerned that our "little piece of heaven" is, somehow, dramatically altered by this kind of controversial business. People choose to live here, I believe, because of our neighborly and wholesome way of life. Most of us know our shop owners and each other. It is highly significant that the owner of the Gun Store refuses to even talk to me.

One young Wimberley mom said to me, “I feel uncomfortable every time I drive by that store, and when my children are in the car. I am worried the military tanks blatantly displayed will frighten them."

This community is protective of its way of life and is proud of its healthy and safe environment. We should ask ourselves if selling military-style weapons to the general public is the kind of business we welcome.

If you have similar concerns, and would like to gather signatures for a petition requesting the Gun Store to voluntarily stop selling Class 3 weapons at the RR 12 location, you may contact me at: FOXLADY830@YAHOO.COM.