The Texas House Committee on General Investigating issued four subpoenas Friday, though it did not say to whom or for what purpose.
It was this legislative session’s first meeting of the committee, which investigates wrongdoing in government including potential misconduct by members, since its inaugural housekeeping meeting at the beginning of March.
Since then, two House members have faced ethics questions, both related to their treatment of staff.
The House Committee on General Investigating, along with its counterpart in the Senate, has the power to conduct inquiries into state agencies, departments and officials. The committees also have the ability to draft articles of impeachment against lawmakers.
This week, The Texas Tribune reported that a legislative staffer submitted a complaint to the investigative committee earlier this month alleging that Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, had a potentially inappropriate relationship with an intern.
The complaint said Slaton invited the intern to his Austin condo after 10 p.m. on March 31. A source with direct knowledge of the incident told the Tribune that Slaton drank alcohol with the woman, who was under 21.
Earlier this month, three employees of Rep. Jolanda Jones, D-Houston, resigned in late March, citing an “abusive and hostile” work environment.
In a letter, the trio said Jones assigned them work unrelated to state business, regularly required them to work outside of business hours and often threatened to fire employees. They also alleged that Jones had failed to intervene in what they said was an inappropriate relationship between an office intern and the lawmaker’s son.
The former employees also filed a complaint with the House investigative committee.
See here and here for some background. We don’t know that these subpoenas have to do with Reps. Slaton and Jones, but it seems very likely that they do. I will reserve comment on those situations for now, but one thing that should be mentioned that I have not explicitly said before now is that mistreatment of legislative staff is unfortunately very common, so much so that it’s often seen as a fact of life rather than a bad thing that deserves sunlight and reform. It’s a bipartisan problem, and as such there’s very good reason for there to be a robust bipartisan solution. A number of legislators started out as staffers, and many staffers are young people who don’t have any power or resources to protect themselves. We have no excuse for this. Whatever happens with these investigations, it’s way past time for the Lege to address this issue. We can do so much better.