CPS Energy Chief Operating Officer Fred Bonewell verbally resigned from his position Friday “to pursue other opportunities” after being placed on administrative leave by the utility Monday, CPS Energy officials said in an emailed statement Friday afternoon.

Bonewell’s resignation and administrative leave follow the public release of ethics complaints against the CPS Energy official by KSAT-TV. In the complaints, Bonewell was accused of making an insensitive comment about “Mexicans” and of overspending company funds on luxuries like catered lunches.

The San Antonio Report in 2019 found Bonewell and John Bonnin, vice president of energy supply and market operations, had spent more than $7,000 to travel to Tel Aviv, Israel, to visit CyberGym, an IT training center in 2017.

Results from the latest Bexar Facts/KSAT/San Antonio Report poll reflected the utility’s recent stumbles, including Bonewell’s promotion in the wake of complaints against him.

Despite eight internal complaints about him since January 2018, Bonewell was promoted to chief operating officer in June; he previously served as the utility’s chief safety and security officer.

In the CPS Energy press release announcing Bonewell’s promotion, the utility’s President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams called him “a highly effective member of the CPS Energy leadership team” who has “repeatedly raised the bar on the functions under his purview.”

CPS Energy declined to comment any further on Bonewell’s resignation Friday, citing the issue was a private personnel matter.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg told the San Antonio Report the findings were “deeply troubling,” and said he expects the board will “review this thoroughly in the coming weeks, especially since the trustees learned of Mr. Bonewell’s actions through the media.”

Over the past several months, Councilman Mario Bravo (D1) has called for CPS Energy leadership to “do better,” especially in the wake of February’s winter storm which resulted in rolling blackouts across the city and state.

Last week, Bravo told the San Antonio Report he feels there’s a culture among CPS Energy’s leadership that “fails to recognize they’re a public utility and the responsibilities that come with that,” and said it could be time for changes.

On Friday, CPS Energy Board of Trustees Vice Chair Janie Gonzalez said she thinks Bonewell made the right decision to step down from his position. She said she and other CPS Energy leadership are working to earn the trust of the community.

“It’s a testament at the end of the day that he chose to move forward and accept full responsibility for his actions,” Gonzalez said. “I’m sure it’s the right thing for everybody involved.”

A Latina small business owner, Gonzalez told the San Antonio Report last week she had never had any negative or racist experiences with Bonewell herself and noted she still supports CPS Energy’s overall leadership.

CPS Energy Trustee Ed Kelley on Friday said he considered Bonewell an “outstanding executive” and thought he was doing a good job for CPS Energy, particularly within the cybersecurity department.

“I’m disappointed to hear that he is leaving,” Kelley said.

Last week Kelley, who will step down from the board at the end of January, told the San Antonio Report he wasn’t familiar with the context in which Bonewell’s comments were made.

“It could be that somebody said, ‘There’s a bunch of Mexicans out there,’ and so he might have said, ‘Well where are they?’ You know, I don’t know. So I can’t comment on that.” 

CPS Energy is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.