AUSTIN, Texas (TEXAS TRIBUNE) – A House committee has recommended the expulsion of Republican state Rep. Bryan Slaton after finding that he engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with a subordinate, then acted to thwart an investigation into the matter.
In a speech from the floor, Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, chairman of the House General Investigating Committee, said Slaton’s behavior was “induced by alcohol” that the representative provided the 19-year-old woman.
“Rep. Slaton then acted systematically to influence that subordinate and multiple witnesses to obstruct the investigation,” Murr said.
Murr said expelling Slaton was necessary to protect the “dignity and integrity” of the Legislature.
After Murr’s speech, clerks distributed the investigative committee’s report on Slaton, which detailed the panel’s findings and its recommendation of expulsion. Members sat silently for about 10 minutes and read it as Slaton remained seated at his desk, occasionally peering at his phone.
Speaker Dade Phelan then resumed normal legislative business. The speaker, who typically does not participate in chamber debates as its presiding officer, said in a written statement he would stick to that role.
“I will withhold public comment until my colleagues have the opportunity to deliberate and then vote on the General Investigating Committee’s recommendations,” Phelan said.
The decision to remove Slaton will ultimately be up to the full House; the Texas Constitution allows members to be expelled with a two-thirds vote of the chamber. Murr on Saturday filed House Resolution 1542, the legislation which would remove him.
Some members expressed eagerness to move forward with expulsion. Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, said on Twitter that he was disturbed by the report, calling Slaton a predator, and was looking forward to expelling him. Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, noted in a text message that he called for Slaton to resign about a month ago, when news of the allegations against him were first surfacing.
“He had plenty of time to do the right thing,” Cain said. “Now this body must do the right thing and expel him.”
The House has not expelled members in nearly a century. Members removed Reps. F.A. Dale and H. H. Moore in 1927 on the grounds of “conduct unbecoming any member.”
A Capitol employee filed a complaint with the committee last month alleging that Slaton, 45, had sex with one of his staff, a woman under 21, and gave her alcohol. The complaint, which was reviewed by The Texas Tribune, said the incident happened at Slaton’s Austin apartment in March.
Slaton has repeatedly declined to comment on the allegations. His lawyer in April issued a statement calling the claims “outrageous” and “false” without specifying further. Slaton remained silent when reporters asked him questions as he left the committee hearing Thursday.
The committee of three Republicans and two Democrats met privately for about 90 minutes Friday night, but its chair Murr declined to comment afterward.
The committee also is believed to be looking into claims that Rep. Jolanda Jones, a Houston Democrat, created an “abusive and hostile” work environment in her office.
Slaton took office in 2021 after defeating Rep. Dan Flynn, a longtime Republican state representative whom Slaton had challenged multiple times and considered too moderate.
His political campaign was largely funded by West Texas oil and gas billionaires Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks. The two are among the biggest donors to some of the most socially conservative lawmakers in the Legislature, including far-right opponents to lawmakers who vote against their political interests.
Slaton is known as one of the most conservative members in the chamber, frequently rankling House leaders, and this year fought a losing battle to amend House rules to prohibit Democrats from leading legislative committees. The issue has been a major concern for ultraconservative grassroots Republicans who do not want Democrats leading key legislative debates.
Last year, he called for a blanket ban on minors at drag shows, saying it was necessary to protect children from “perverted adults.” He has also proposed giving property tax cuts to straight, married couples — but not same-sex couples or those who have been divorced — based on the number of children they have.
Earlier this year, Slaton also filed a bill that would allow for a referendum on Texas secession from the United States during the state’s next general election. Most experts agree such a move would be illegal.
This developing story will continue to be updated.
James Barragán contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/05/06/texas-legislature-bryan-slaton-investigation/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.