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

Briana Conner Image
Friday, March 31, 2023
Houston representative's staff resigns, cite hostile environment
In a letter, the former employees alleged that Rep. Jolanda Jones tasked them with unrelated state business, required them to work outside business hours and threatened to fire emp

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- State. Representative Jolanda Jones is facing an investigation in the state house after three of her senior staff members 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 joint resignation letter to Jones that she tasked staff with tasks 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."

Their resignation letter lists allegations of threatening behavior and incidents involving improper relationships, both personally and professionally, within the office.

ABC13 is not reporting on the substance of these claims because the staffers did not release any information to substantiate them. They also would not comment further when Eyewitness News asked.

Part of their letter read: "We cannot allow anyone to be threatened or harassed, especially in a professional setting. It is time for you to show real leadership by taking immediate action to address these issues, rather than covering them up."

A statement from Rep. Jones did not address the allegations directly.

"Working in the Texas legislature is a stressful and demanding job, especially when you are in a daily fight to protect your constituents from attacks on their families, their civil rights, their schools, and their ability to control their own bodies. Some of my staff have decided this job is not for them. I wish them good luck and success in their next endeavors," she said.

Cassi Pollock, a 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.

The Texas House General Investigating Committee, which functions similarly to an HR department, will look into this situation now to determine if there has been any wrongdoing.

Rep. Jones 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-Councilmember Jones made obscene remarks during a station visit and suggested firefighters were lazy. Her spokesperson said the allegations about Jones were false.

The Texas Tribune and Zach Depsart contributed to this report.