AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Texas lawmaker responded Wednesday to claims made in a joint resignation letter submitted by three senior staff members that have now apparently led to an investigation by state leaders.
Rep. Jolanda Jones, D-Houston, posted a statement on her Facebook page addressing accusations raised in her former staffers’ resignation letter, including about her son’s mental health and an alleged relationship he had with an intern. One week ago, her chief of staff Kory Haywood, legislative director Catherine “Cat” Mouer and district director Yesenia Wences shared a list of claims in their joint resignation letter that ranged from Jones covering up that aforementioned relationship to her creating a toxic, abusive work environment. One of these staffers shared the letter in question with KXAN.
“A week ago today, three members of my staff released a statement making numerous allegations regarding the work environment in my office,” Jones said Wednesday. “This letter that was sent to me and the Committee on House Administration has triggered an investigation into the allegations. I welcome that investigation and look forward to being vindicated of any wrong doing, and therefore will not speak to those allegations towards me directly as to not impede the work of the House General Investigating Committee.”
However, Jones criticized the three former staffers for including the intern’s name in their letter that appeared last week on social media and in other news outlets. The letter acquired by KXAN redacted the intern’s name. Jones said she spoke to her intern since the allegations became public and claimed the woman “categorically denies any wrong doing or participation in any inappropriate relationship with my son.”
In their letter, Jones’ three staffers said the “main reason for our resignation is due to your response to the inappropriate relationship between your son and the intern.” They claimed in their letter that Jones “actively covered up your [son’s] inappropriate relationship with one of our interns, who is significantly younger than him and is in a power imbalance.”
“It is so disappointing to see that while you build your profile on overcoming abuse, you cannot stand up to the abuser that you raised,” the staffers wrote.
According to her response Wednesday, Jones said her son is 31, while her intern is 26. She said her intern also gave her permission to share that “she is a survivor of sexual assault and completely understands what constitutes both harassment and abuse all too well.”
“The inclusion of her name in these allegations have caused a revictimization and retraumatization of her,” Jones wrote.
The lawmaker, who represents House District 147 in Harris County, also said she is “equally outraged” by allegations the former employees made about her son’s mental health.
“I stand for and with these two young people at the beginnings of their careers,” Jones said. “I stand with all victims of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. I simply can not let these unfair and unsubstantiated issues, go unanswered, especially when their alleged victim emphatically and unequivocally denies them. Consequently, I believe her.”
Jones concluded by saying this will be her only public statement about these allegations and that she will cooperate with the House investigation.
KXAN reached out Wednesday afternoon to House Speaker Dade Phelan’s office seeking more information about the probe Jones referenced in her statement. Cassi Pollock, the speaker’s spokesperson, released a statement saying Phelan’s office learned of these complaints against Jones on March 29.
“The allegations are under review by the appropriate entities, as outlined in the rules of the Texas House,” Pollock said. “The Speaker’s office takes all allegations seriously and expects that this matter will be addressed and resolved as soon as possible.”
Jones won her seat in the Texas House during a special election in 2022. She finished out the term of former state Rep. Garnet Coleman at that time. Her victory meant she became the first Black, openly LGBTQ+ lawmaker in the state’s history. Jones previously served on the Houston City Council and the Houston ISD board.