HICO - Fourteen men who applied for electrical licenses under the guidance of Rual Chavez, former Hico code compliance officer, can expect to receive a cease and desist notice from the state in the near future, a state official said Friday.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) refused to release the names of those involved Friday.
But one man, Michael Dunton, feels he has been misled and wants the community to know he was never willingly a part of any scheme to deceive the state.
“They (TDLR) make it sound like we all huddled up in a corner and planned how we were going to cheat the state out of some licenses,” Dunton said. “It wasn’t like that at all. We were following the directions of a Hico city official who we thought was trying to help us meet the requirements. I understood he went to Austin for training and came back real excited about it. Now our livelihoods are at stake.”
According to a TDLR press release, Chavez is accused of concocting a scheme to allow unqualified individuals to receive state electrical licenses by setting up a Hico municipal licensing program.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s office received warrants from the Texas Attorney General’s Office and arrested Chavez on January 18.
Chavez was charged with three counts of tampering with a government record, a state jail felony.
A program that Hico City Administrator, Lambert Little, says was never approved by the city council and that he had no personal knowledge of.
In a previous interview, Little said he terminated Chavez in early July but would not disclose the reason for the termination.
Little said he knew Chavez was conducting training programs but said when he questioned Chavez he was told the classes were being given on the man’s own time.
“When I questioned Rual, I could never get a straight answer,” Little said.
Patrick Shaughnessey, media contact for TDLR, confirmed that Chavez is a licensed provider of continuing education courses for electricians. When Shaughnessy put in a search for a licensed provider for Hico in his data system Chavez’s name came up immediately.
Michael Dunton, a man who stands to lose a great deal when his electrical license is revoked has a problem with the stance the city has taken.
“How can they be in denial about a program that they took our money for?” Dunton said. “I entered into the program on good faith. I learned of the program through the city secretary and a city employee was conducting it. Why would I question that? Now, they (the city) want to act like they knew nothing of it.”
Dunton said he has canceled checks made out to the city of Hico and receipts from Rual Chavez made out on behalf of the city.
Dunton said he first learned of the program through Anita Mueller, city secretary, who told of the program and said it was something he should know about and get involved in.
Mueller denied the conversation ever took place. She said she never talked to anyone about it because she had no knowledge of it.
Dunton has documentation signed by former Hico mayor Stan Bundy III, for master’s electrician training for the city. He is also in possession of several certificates from Chavez, one bearing the Hico, Texas/Hamilton County seal certifying Dunton as a master electrician complete with his examination grade.
Dunton said he had worked as an electrician at the Glen Rose nuclear power plant for twelve years. He said Chavez said he had met qualifications to be “grandfathered in” for a master’s electrician license. He said he was just following Chavez’s directions and had no reason to question him since he was the code enforcement officer for the City of Hico.
Three men were given the opportunity to surrender the licenses with out any penalty or time restraint as to when they could reapply.
Dunton talked to one of the men (who wishes to remain anonymous) to find out how he was able to surrender and why he didn’t get the same opportunity.
Dunton said this individual received a letter telling him if he would willingly surrender his license the state would not pursue any further case against him. He simply took the state up on their offer.
Dunton said the individual is very upset and plans on meeting the City of Hico in court. He said the individual has already met with Little and told him of his plans.
Dunton said he never received any such letter and wonders why three men were given an opportunity that he was not.
“I certainly would have surrendered if I had known there was a problem. I didn’t know anything was wrong. I had other avenues that I could have used to obtain this license,” Dunton said. “Chavez did not approach anyone except very experienced good people, he wasn’t just asking anyone off the street.”
Little maintains the city is also a victim of the scheme.
“According to the state, a former City of Hico employee was allegedly running a licensing scam on individuals as well as on the City. We really do not know any more than this. The City of Hico is confident that the Attorney General’s office and the court system will unravel this issue, and we likely won’t know any more than this until the Attorney General’s Office completes their investigation and takes necessary action,” Little said.