In a historic move, the Texas House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to expel Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Republican accused of having sexual intercourse with a young legislative aide.
This is the first time since 1927 that a lawmaker has been expelled from the Legislature.
Rep. Andrew Murr, the chairman of the House General Investigating Committee, brought the resolution for a vote Tuesday afternoon.
“Some of you have wondered if a different level of punishment might be warranted,” Murr said. “After hearing from [the House General Investigating Committee], no one can conclude that we should simply levy a fine and be done. To do so would undercut everything in this complaint process with an independent investigation.”
The final vote was 147-0. Three members, including Slaton, who resigned Tuesday, were not in attendance.
His expulsion comes just three days after the House General Investigating Committee released a scathing report accusing Slaton of supplying alcohol to his 19-year-old staffer and of having sex with her at his Austin apartment.
Neither Slaton’s office nor his attorney immediately responded to a request for comment.
Slaton’s attorney said last month — before the report was released — that the allegations against his client were “outrageous.”
The report was published Saturday and found that, late in March and early April, Slaton violated House rules “by engaging in harassment prohibited by law, specifically sexual harassment, and by not conducting himself in a manner free of harassment, by both inappropriate physical behavior and having sexual intercourse with a legislative aide working in his state office and over whom he had primary responsibility for overseeing and who was unable to give effective consent.”
The Texas Newsroom is not identifying the aide. An attorney for the 19-year-old didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
The House General Investigating Committee also found that Slaton engaged in harassment and witness intimidation by “attempting to prevent any person with direct knowledge of relevant facts from speaking to anyone about” his conduct.
The committee said that some of Slaton’s conduct also violated Texas law.
Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, said the committee’s report is also conclusive on Slaton’s response to the allegations.
“All of the facts alleged in the report are completely undisputed by Representative Slaton or anyone else,” said Spiller, a member of the committee.
He added that Slaton has not shown regret or remorse.
A missed vote, and a downfall
Tuesday’s vote is the culmination of weeks full of rumors, questions and controversy.
Slaton has made a name for himself in the Legislature by pushing for measures that target people in the LGBTQ community, including calling drag performers “perverted adults.”
Last month, when the Texas House held a vote on its proposed budget, Slaton was not in attendance.
That raised some questions since he was the author of 27 amendments.
Rumors immediately followed.
A few days later, The Texas Tribune reported a complaint had been filed against Slaton over an inappropriate relationship with his aide, initially referred to as an intern.
The House General Investigating Committee hired a third party to investigate the matter and came down with a report recommending Slaton’s expulsion on Saturday.
Before the vote, Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston, a member of the House General Investigating Committee, spoke directly to those who reported Slaton’s conduct.
“It is important for us to make sure that the young adults who found themselves in his apartment, at Bryan Slaton’s making — you never were and are not the problem,” Johnson said. “He is.”
She added that it’s powerful men like Slaton — not men in a dark alley — who steal the innocence of others.
“This is a man that stains the institution so many of us honor,” Johnson said. “And this is the man that has left us with no choice to take the vote that we have to take today.”
After the vote, House Speaker Dade Phelan said he was proud of the work of the committee and said that sexual harassment is not condoned in the Legislature.
He expressed hopes that Tuesday’s vote sends a signal to people in the Capitol: Only one voice is needed to create a change.
“I thank those who came forward, those who cooperated with the investigation,” Phelan said. “The Texas House and all those who serve in this body owe you a debt of gratitude.”