North Texas lawmaker resigns after investigations found he engaged in sexual misconduct

AUSTIN – North Texas GOP Representative Bryan Slaton resigned Monday, on the eve of a scheduled vote in the House on whether to be ejected for inappropriate sexual conduct with a 19-year-old legislative aide.

In a letter to Governor Greg Abbott and House Clerk Stephen Brown, Slaton said his resignation was effective immediately. Slaton did not mention Saturday’s report from the House General Investigative Committee recommending he be deported.

“I look forward to spending more time with my young family and will continue to find ways to serve my community and all citizens across our great state,” she wrote.

Slaton, R-Royse City, said it “was an honor” to represent District 2, where he won election in 2020 and last year.

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On Monday, the door to Slaton’s Capitol office was locked. Since Saturday, he has not returned messages seeking comment on the investigating committee’s recommendation that he be the first House member to be expelled since 1927.

On Saturday, Rep. Andrew Murr, a Junction Republican who heads the House General Investigative Committee, said Slaton allegedly supplied the legislative aide with alcohol, had sex with her, and then acted “systematically to influence that subordinate, multiple witness and obstruct investigations into the matter to the detriment of both our Chamber and those who work there.”

The reaction to his resignation was swift.

Representative Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, described the letter as “inconceivable”.

“No apologies to the young woman who violated, his wife who cheated, or his district who failed. … No remorse,” said Toth, one of two House Freedom Caucus members to immediately call for Slaton’s resignation after the scandal erupted. “No accountability. She is the victim who rides into the sunset. That was the resignation of a narcissist.

State GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi, who often criticizes House GOP leaders as insufficiently conservative, praised the House for Slaton’s handling.

“The misconduct described in the report of the general investigation commission should never be tolerated and is a legitimate ground for expulsion,” Rinaldi said in a written statement.

“These actions betrayed the trust the people of Rep. Slaton’s district placed in him as an elected official, and he rightfully resigned. We are encouraged that this investigation signals that the House has entered a new era of accountability in which all members will be held to the same fair and high standards.”

On Monday, Murr said he still had plans Tuesday to call for a vote to oust Slaton.

“Under Texas law, he is considered an official of this state until a successor is elected and sworn in,” Murr said in a social media post.

Under the state Constitution, lawmakers can be expelled for “disorderly conduct.” It is for each House to define what constitutes such conduct.

The General Investigative Committee began receiving complaints about Slaton’s behavior on April 5, the report noted.

Former Harris County District Judge Catherine Evans, now an attorney in Houston, was detained investigating the allegations against Slaton. Evans provided the jury with the report early last week.

Slaton, who appeared before the committee for 90 minutes on Thursday, expressed no regret and showed no remorse for his conduct, a “fact” the report called “egregious.” After the meeting with the commission, he did not respond to journalists’ questions about his presence in front of the jury.

Slaton, 45, married, is considered one of the most conservative members of the House.

After two unsuccessful bids in 2016 and 2018, and strong financial backing from Midland oilman Tim Dunn and fracking billionaire Farris Wilks, Slaton ousted longtime Van representative Dan Flynn in the 2020 GOP primary. House District 2 includes parts of Hopkins, Hunt and Van Zandt counties.

In his first session and again this year, Slaton has repeatedly criticized House Speaker Dade Phelan as too moderate. Slaton called on the GOP speaker to end the longstanding house practice of appointing minority party members — Democrats — to head House committees. Phelan ignored him.

Less than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Slaton unsuccessfully asked the House to lift mask requirements and other public health precautions. The last session sought to make abortion a capital offence. In this session, Slaton worked against LGBTQ rights.

News reports of his alleged misconduct appeared in early April, just before the House debated and passed the one bill it must pass each session, the biennial state budget. Slaton had tabled 27 grassroots amendments, including one to name county morgues after President Joe Biden. He was absent on the day of the debate. None of his amendments were taken into consideration.

A former Southern Baptist youth and family minister, Slaton attended Ouachita Baptist University, the University of North Texas, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned a master’s degree in divinity. He currently works at the family firm, Slaton Financial Services, according to his campaign website.

Austin-based investigative reporter Lauren McGaughy contributed to this report.

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