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Rep. Bryan Slaton declines to discuss attendance at closed investigative hearing

By James Barragán and Robert Downen, The Texas Tribune

Rep. Bryan Slaton declines to discuss attendance at closed investigative hearing” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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State Rep. Bryan Slaton, the Royse City Republican accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a staffer, declined Thursday to discuss his attendance at a closed-door hearing of a House investigative panel that has been looking into the matter.

Slaton did not answer questions from reporters as he left the room where a due-process hearing was taking place. He was absent from the House floor as the investigative panel was meeting in a separate part of the Capitol.

Thursday’s meeting of the House General Investigating Committee came after the five-member panel voted unanimously on Monday to conduct a private due-process hearing after finding that an unnamed lawmaker may have been involved in inappropriate workplace conduct.

Last month, a Capitol staffer alleged in a complaint to the committee that Slaton, 45, had sex with one of his employees, a woman under 21, and also provided her with alcohol. The complaint, which was reviewed by The Texas Tribune, said the incident occurred at Slaton’s Austin apartment in March.

Slaton has declined to comment on the allegations, referring reporters to his lawyer, who issued a statement calling allegations against him “outrageous” and “false” without specifying further. Slaton continued his silence Thursday afternoon as he was followed down a hallway by reporters waiting for him to emerge from the committee room.

The committee has kept its investigation under wraps, declining to name the lawmaker being investigated and referring to the investigation only as “Matter B” in public hearings. The committee was also believed to be looking into allegations of an “abusive and hostile” work environment by state Rep. Jolanda Jones, D-Houston.

The committee had scheduled the due-process hearing for 2 p.m. Around 1:30 p.m., lawmakers on the House floor announced a separate meeting of the committee in a different room at 1:45 p.m., when members voted unanimously to issue a subpoena in “Matter B” directing a man “to provide all relevant testimony and information concerning the committee’s inquiry” and to authorize the issuing of “one or more subpoenas for a part or portion of any relevant testimony or information as necessary to avoid overburdening a witness or the committee.”

The Tribune has not confirmed the identity of the man subpoenaed.

The committee also voted to authorize a sergeant-at-arms or an agent to issue the subpoena on behalf of the committee.

As the committee wrapped up that meeting, Slaton entered a nearby room, where the second committee hearing would take place, through a back entrance.

The committee members then walked across the hall for their 2 p.m. due-process hearing and almost immediately went into executive session, ordering members of the public to leave. About an hour later, Slaton was seen exiting the room through the same door he’d entered.

Around 4 p.m., the committee adjourned without making any decisions. State Rep. Andrew Murr, a Republican from Junction who leads the committee, declined comment on Slaton’s involvement in the hearing.

The House General Investigating Committee, comprising three Republicans and two Democrats, has the power to conduct inquiries into state agencies, departments and officials and has the ability to draft articles of impeachment against lawmakers.

Slaton, one of the most far-right social conservatives in the Legislature, has been married to his second wife since 2017.

He joined the Texas House in 2021 after a campaign financed heavily by far-right Texas groups that framed him as a Christian family man and touted his previous work as a Southern Baptist youth pastor. Since then, he has gained a reputation as a bomb-thrower, a stalwart for ultraconservative causes and, at times, a needle in the side of House Republican leadership.

Last year, Slaton proposed a ban on minors at drag shows, saying it was necessary to protect children from “perverted adults.” And this session, he put forth a bill that would give property tax cuts to straight, married couples based on the number of children they have, while excluding LGBTQ couples or those who have previously been divorced.

The allegations of an inappropriate workplace relationship sent shockwaves through the most conservative wings of the Texas GOP. After days of buzz at the Capitol about Slaton’s unexplained, multiday absence last month, he faced calls to resign from two lawmakers with whom he is ideologically aligned.

“What’s most troubling about the events of this story is that his behavior appears to be predatory,” state Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, wrote on social media at the time. “Unfortunately, his handlers have closed their eyes to the signs of his dysfunctional behavior because he was willing to do their bidding.”

Zach Despart, Patrick Svitek and Karen Brooks Harper contributed to this report.

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