San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

September 23rd, 2008
Pedernales Electric Cooperative channel: ‘The Texland record, still a mystery’


On March 4, 1982, as the editor of the Wimberley View newspaper, I wrote a column requesting Texland Electric Cooperative and the PEC  “open all of the records on Texland” and that “the time is long past due when the Pedernales Electric Co-op should come clean.” Ironically, as one of the earliest and most vocal critics of Texland in the 1980’s, I now am on the Texland board of directors and the board Treasurer.

A short history on Texland and the PEC is necessary before one can understand the magnitude of this story. The PEC created Texland in 1978 when Bud Burnett served as PEC President, Bennie Fuelberg as General Manager, and A. W. Moursund as General Counsel. PEC and Bluebonnet board members selected the six-member Texland board and Burnett became Texland President while simultaneously serving as PEC President.

Once the heretofore secretive Texland plan to build coal-fired power plants was exposed in the newspapers, the coop leadership called a hasty meeting to ratify their decisions and continue the project.A total of 156 members, mainly board members, friends and PEC employees, appeared on a cold afternoon in January 1981. A majority approved “all the actions taken by the board of directors and management in connection with the proposed generation project of Texland Electric Cooperative, Inc.”

Texland later signed a $2 million lignite contract with Shell Oil Company that guaranteed Shell a return on their investment and allowed Shell to renegotiate the lignite price every three years.

Fortunately, even with the machinations of the PEC/Texland power brokers, the Public Utility Commission denied a permit for construction of the plants, but not before the PEC loaned $6.8 million to Texland in 1981 and authorized another $28 million loan.A lawsuit between Texland and LCRA was settled in 1986 that resulted in a multimillion-dollar settlement that was paid to Texland.

Now, fast forward to recent actions – since we reformed the Texland board on August 15, we have sought information on the Texland account and the organization.To date, Cattleman’s Bank has been highly legalistic in answering Texland’s demands for information on Texland’s own account.

Subsequent issuing a call for records, bank attorney Will Moursund — the son of A.W. Moursund — turned over check registers, statements and other documents. But, it was not clear in what capacity he did so, as attorney for the bank, for Texland, or for PEC, where until recently he served as outside counsel.

As those records are sorted out, dozens of open questions remain, chief among them: Why was this money placed in a non-interest bearing account at a bank owned by PEC’s then-general counsel?

When can we get an accounting of where all the money went? Where are the documents and the corporate records? Where are the bank statements and financial records?

The persons in the best position to answer these questions have offered nothing but a succession of bald declarations of good faith, in the process cryptically tossing out new puzzles:

First, Fuelberg and Burnett explained that Texland paid themselves and Mr. Moursand a total of $373,000 in extra compensation.

Who authorized those payments, and on what basis?

So far, all we have is a newspaper column in which Fuelberg and Burnett justified the payday as board-approved “per-diem” payment. They make the startling claim that PEC and Bluebonnet are no longer members of Texland, and that a long-ago refund of  $1,000 membership fees severed those ties.

By asserting that PEC and Bluebonnet are not members of Texland, are Fuelberg and Burnett suggesting that those coops’ recent reconstitution of the Texland board was invalid, and that they or others still control Texland — and the bank account? If so, by their logic, I might not really be a Texland board member, just a pesky outsider.

It was as an outsider that I began the effort that I pledge to continue as a Texland director. I assure members of the PEC and Bluebonnet that I along with the other parties who have been thrust back into this time-warp will work with the Texland board to fully investigate and provide as much information as we are able to obtain.After all these years, perhaps we can finally open all of the records and have a clean showing.

PATRICK COX, Ph.D., is a Pedernales Electric Cooperative elected board member.

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