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Texas GOP legislator resigns ahead of expulsion vote over alleged sexual misconduct with aide

A committee unanimously recommended that Republican Rep. Bryan Slaton be expelled from the Texas House.
Texas State Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City.
The chair of the state Republican Party said state Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, "betrayed the trust" of his constituents.Jay Janner / American-Statesman / USA Today Network

Bryan Slaton resigned from the Texas House of Representatives on Monday ahead of a vote over whether to expel him after an investigation found that he engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with a 19-year-old aide, the state Republican Party said in a statement.

The House Committee on General Investigating released an 18-page report Saturday detailing its investigation into Slaton's conduct, which it called "grave and serious." It found he violated House rules by engaging in inappropriate workplace conduct, specifically sexual harassment and retaliation. The five-person committee unanimously recommended his expulsion, and the House had been set to vote Tuesday on whether to expel him from the Legislature.

Matt Rinaldi, the chair of the state Republican Party, said Slaton's actions "betrayed the trust" of his constituents.

"We are encouraged that this investigation signals that the House has entered a new era of accountability where all members will be held to the same fair and high standards," Rinaldi said in a statement.

Slaton, 45, is a conservative Republican. Last year, he called for drag shows to be banned in the presence of minors, citing a need to protect children from "perverted adults."

Slaton and Patrick Short, his attorney, did not respond to requests for comment. Last month, Short said the allegations from three female staffers ages 19 to 21 were "outrageous" and "false."

Slaton’s lawyers had tried to have the complaints dismissed by arguing that his actions occurred at his Austin residence, not in the workplace. But the committee, citing a state court ruling, said its job in investigating the allegations was to "ask whether sufficient facts exist from which to infer a nexus between the sexual conduct and the work environment,” which it concluded there was.

According to the report, Slaton had sexual intercourse with a legislative aide whom he had primary responsibility for overseeing. He invited her to his apartment late March 31 and served her several alcoholic beverages, the committee found. The aide testified that she consumed “a lot of alcohol” and felt “really dizzy" at Slaton's apartment. Sometime on the morning of April 1, the two had sexual intercourse, and the aide got Plan B to prevent pregnancy later that morning.

The report found that the aide could not effectively consent or indicate whether sex was welcome or unwelcome. The committee did not address whether Slaton committed sexual assault, saying it did not have "sufficient facts" to undertake the analysis.

“'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,'" the report quoted the aide as saying.

The committee found that Slaton engaged in harassment and retaliation to prevent staffers from speaking about his conduct. The aide testified that Slaton showed her an anonymous "threatening" email from someone claiming to know he had slept with a staffer. She said she became "really fearful" that she would lose her job. She said that Slaton told her “everything would be fine” and that he said, “Everyone involved just has to stay quiet,” according to the report. 

The committee also found that a fellow representative had called Slaton to ask whether he had had sexual intercourse with a staffer, which Slaton confirmed. The representative said that the next day he told Slaton to resign, at which point Slaton asked whether the phone call could remain "between us."

Slaton had resisted calls to resign and has not expressed regret, the committee said. Pressure for his resignation began rising over the weekend, with the Texas Freedom Caucus, whose members were usually allied with Slaton, calling his behavior “abhorrent.”

"It is the Committee’s unanimous recommendation that, considering the factors stated above, the only appropriate discipline in this matter is expulsion," the report reads.