Texas lawmaker's top staff resigns, alleges 'hostile workplace,' 'unethical conduct'

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AUSTIN — The senior staff members of Democratic freshman state Rep. Jolanda Jones of Houston have resigned in a blistering letter that accuses Jones of fostering a hostile workplace, unethical conduct and condoning an inappropriate relationship between the lawmaker's son and a staff intern.

"We, as a collective of senior staff, have repeatedly attempted to curb your behavior and address the type of work environment you have bred over the last month," said the four-page letter signed by Jones' chief of staff, district director and legislative director. "But, to no avail; we haven't seen any success. You have continued to endorse, encourage, and create an abusive and hostile work environment in the workplace without accountability for you or your relatives’ actions."

State Rep. Jolanda Jones, D-Houston
State Rep. Jolanda Jones, D-Houston

In a brief conversation as she was leaving her office in the underground extension of the Texas Capitol, Jones declined to discuss the letter. She said she was on her way to an unspecified meeting.

"I'm trying to get money for House District 147," said Jones, who won election in November to represent the district.

In a formal statement, Jones did not address the allegations in the letter, but she wished those who resigned "good luck and success in their next endeavors."

"Working in the Texas Legislature is a stressful and demanding job, especially when you are in a daily fight to protect your constituents from attacks on their families, their civil rights, their schools, and their ability to control their own bodies," Jones' statement said. "Some on my staff have decided this job is not for them."

The letter, first published in an online Capitol-centered newsletter, the Quorum Report, details several allegations that Jones "involved staff in the affairs of (her) personal and family life, without regard for work-life boundaries and the scope of staff’s employment" and that she "called staff at all hours of the night and on weekends to discuss work" and to drive her "from place to place."

"You have engaged in physically threatening behavior in public view that has made staff feel unsafe and compromised their ability to complete their duties," the letter said. "This behavior has also distracted witnesses and other staffers."

In a statement, Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan's spokeswoman said his office has been made aware of "complaints against a member of the Texas House of Representatives."

"The allegations are under review by the appropriate entities, as outlined in the rules of the Texas House," said press secretary Cassi Pollock. "The Speaker’s office takes all allegations seriously and expects that this matter will be addressed and resolved as soon as possible.”

The staff members said they are especially concerned that Jones had "actively covered up" her son's "inappropriate relationship" with an intern and used her "position to intimidate and silence" her staff members.

John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at jmoritz@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.

This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Texas lawmaker's top staff resigns, citing 'hostile workplace'