Texas House committee recommends expulsion of Rep. Bryan Slaton

The Texas House General Investigating Committee recommended the expulsion of Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) on Saturday to the body — a would-be first since 1927.

Slaton had been under investigation for an inappropriate sexual relationship with his staffer, including illegally providing the under-21 employee with alcohol. 

Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction), chair of the General Investigating Committee, announced the recommendation to the full House body after his committee submitted the report to Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) this morning.

“To summarize the report, we find that Rep. Slaton has engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with a subordinate,” Murr said. “That behavior was induced by alcohol that Rep. Slaton provided to that 19-year-old subordinate. Rep. Slaton then acted systematically to influence that subordinate and multiple witnesses to obstruct the investigation into the matter, to the detriment of both our chamber and those who work here.”

“The expulsion of a member is a level of punishment we don’t take lightly. It is not meant to punish the member, rather it is intended to protect the integrity and dignity of this legislative body, and to provide accountability to everyone that works and serves in this building.”

Murr added that his intention is for the House to vote on Slaton’s expulsion Tuesday, May 9. Under the Texas Constitution, expulsion requires a two-thirds vote in the 150-member body.

Phelan issued the following statement after the announcement: “As the presiding officer of the Texas House of Representatives who will oversee proceedings related to this matter in our chamber, I withhold public comment until my colleagues have the opportunity to deliberate and then vote on the General Investigating Committee’s recommendations.”

The report details the allegations and findings from the investigation initiated after a staffer in a different legislative office submitted a complaint to the committee.

“On or about March 31-April 1, 2023 Slaton violated House Rule 15 … by engaging in harassment prohibited by law, specifically sexual harassment, and by not conducting himself in a manner free of harassment, by both inappropriate physical behavior and having sexual intercourse with a legislative aide working in his state office and over whom he had a primary responsibility for overseeing and who was unable to give effective consent,” the report reads.

The report states that that evening, Slaton invited the staffer over  to “have some drinks and hang out.” The staffer arrived with a couple others — one of whom told the committee the staffer “insisted on going” to the lawmaker’s apartment — and Slaton provided them alcohol. Asked if she felt comfortable in that moment, the staffer told the investigator “I felt like I was in an inappropriate situation [and] in the moment, obviously, I had too many drinks. Kind of hard to think in the moment when you’re intoxicated. But now that I look back at it, it was definitely an inappropriate situation.”

It then described a situation that following week in which Slaton showed the staffer an email from an anonymous sender that alleged to have knowledge of the sexual interaction. The report states that the staffer believed the email to have been sent by Slaton himself from a different email address.

The report also states that one unnamed representative told Slaton on the House floor that he should resign after hearing of the allegations and confirming them with Slaton himself in a phone call, and that multiple lawmakers made the committee aware of their knowledge of the incident 

“Slaton has not expressed regret or remorse for his conduct to the Committee,” the report concludes. “Slaton has not publicly expressed regret or remorse for his conduct.”

The names of the staffer and witnesses involved in the report are pseudonyms.

Slaton hired counsel in April after reports of the misconduct allegations were made public. Slaton’s attorney, Patrick Short, did not return a request for comment by the time of publishing.

In a lower section titled “Conclusions of Law,” the report states, “As a threshold matter, Slaton’s counsel has vigorously and repeatedly urged the dismissal of the complaints on the grounds that the complained-of behavior did not occur in the workplace but rather at Slaton’s Austin residence.”

The committee relayed at least two potential violations of the state’s Penal Code, along with a number of other violations of law and of the House rules.

The last time the Texas House expelled a member was in 1927 when the body culled F.A. Dale and H.H. Moore on bribery charges.

State law provides for an expedited special election to fill a legislative vacancy during a session, but only if the vacancy occurs more than 25 days before sine die. The window for that has closed. Special elections to fill vacancies are ordered by the governor.