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Staff of Houston state Rep. Jolanda Jones resigns, citing hostile work environment

Three staff members of state Rep. Jolanda Jones have resigned, alleging the Houston Democrat created an “abusive and hostile” work environment.

Chief of staff Kory Haywood, legislative director Catherine Mouer and district director Yesenia Wences alleged in a letter to Jones obtained by The Texas Tribune that Jones tasked staff with work unrelated to state business, required them to regularly perform work outside of business hours and regularly threatened to fire employees.

“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,” the letter states. “But, to no avail; we haven’t seen any success.”

The former employees also alleged that Jones had failed to intervene in what they characterized as an inappropriate relationship between the lawmaker’s son, Jio, and an intern in the office. They also said the lawmaker directed staff to assist in arranging health care for a relative.

Jones said in a statement Thursday that working in the Legislature stressful and demanding, describing a “daily fight” on behalf of constituents.

“Some on my staff have decided this job is not for them,” Jones said. “I wish them good luck and success in their next endeavors.”

Cassi Pollock, spokesperson for House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said the speaker’s office learned of the complaints against Jones on Wednesday, which would be reviewed to evaluate whether the lawmaker broke any House rules.

“The Speaker’s office takes all allegations seriously and expects that this matter will be addressed and resolved as soon as possible,” Pollock said.

First elected to the Legislature last year, Jones previously served as a Houston City Council member and Houston Independent School District trustee.

She has, at times, struggled to maintain civil relations with colleagues.

During a retreat for Houston ISD board members in 2018, she got into a 30-second shouting match with a fellow trustee, the Houston Chronicle reported. The newspaper also described her as “vocally hostile” with state education officials and reported her comments calling another trustee a thief and crook with “no moral character.”

Houston firefighters said in 2011 then-Council Member Jones made obscene remarks during a station visit and suggested firefighters were lazy. Her spokesperson said the allegations about Jones were false.

This story originally appeared on the Texas Tribune. To read this article in its original format, click here.

Zach Despart, The Texas Tribune
Zach Despart, The Texas Tribune
Zach Despart is a politics reporter for The Texas Tribune. He investigates power — who wields it, how and to what ends — through the lens of Texas government.


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