Special to the Democrat

A former Building Code Enforcement Officer for the city of Hico has been charged with three counts of tampering with a government record for providing false documentation that allowed three unqualified individuals to receive state electrical licenses.

Raul Chavez, 915 Kirk St. in Hico, was arrested Jan. 18, by deputies from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office based on a complaint filed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Chavez is accused of concocting a scheme to allow unqualified individuals to receive state electrical licenses by setting up a Hico municipal electrical licensing program, which included a training course and a licensing exam provided by Chavez. He is accused of helping the individuals to use their Hico-issued licenses as the basis for obtaining a state electrical license, including providing them with falsified experience verification forms attested to by Chavez.

TDLR has identified 17 individuals who participated in Chavez’ scheme and received state licenses. Three of those individuals already have surrendered their state-issued licenses and the TDLR is seeking to revoke the remaining 14 licenses, including Chavez’.

While serving in 2003 as Building Code Enforcement Officer for Hico, a town of 1,300 about 70 miles southwest of Fort Worth, Chavez convinced city officials to allow him to set up a municipal electrical licensing program. The 78th Texas Legislature had passed House Bill 1487, the Electrical Safety and Licensing Act, mandating that all individuals performing electrical work in Texas must have either a state or local electrician’s license. There was no electrical licensing program in Hico then, so many individuals who were performing electrical work in that area held no license.

The law also provided for a grandfathering period, during which electricians who held a local or regional license could obtain a state license without passing a test by proving they had sufficient experience and by using their local license as the basis for their state license. They were required to have held their local license for a specific period of time and were also required to provide experience verification forms, signed by a master electrician, demonstrating that they had worked for the statutorily required amount of time under the supervision of a master electrician.

The law provided an avenue to electrical licensure for qualified and experienced individuals who worked in areas without licensing, but the law made it much easier to qualify for a state license if the applicant already held a local license.

The local licensing program Chavez set up required electricians to undergo two weeks of training and then pass a test administered by Chavez. Chavez also granted himself a master electrician’s license, although he had no training as an electrician.

Chavez then assisted the members of his class when they filled out their state electrician license application. Since state law required applicants to hold a local electrical license for at least a year to qualify for a state license without testing, each applicant falsely claimed to have held their local licenses for at least a year, even though the Hico program had not at the time existed for a year. In addition, Chavez used the master electrician’s license he had issued to himself to sign experience verification forms for class participants, allowing them to become licensed.

TDLR became aware of the scheme when it was contacted by a Hico city official after Chavez left his job with the city. Hico has since set up a legitimate local electrical licensing program.

To receive news and updates on the Electrical Safety Program, or any of the programs TDLR regulates, sign up for TDLR’s free subscription email service at: http://www.license.state.tx.us/newsletters/TDLRnotificationLists.asp.

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