What’s Behind $1 Million in Severance Agreements From the General Land Office?

An investigation from the Houston Chronicle found the state agency is doling out severance packages totaling nearly a million dollars – where did those numbers come from?

By Rhonda FanningMay 25, 2016 11:09 am,

Of all the myths and mysteries of law, one of the most appealing is the popular notion that it is fixed, that right and wrong may be divined by comparing the facts at hand with the black letter. In the real world, things aren’t quite that simple.

Case in point: here’s a fact revealed by reporter Brian Rosenthal of the Houston Chronicle: state Land Commissioner George P. Bush has spent nearly $1 million paying dozens of ex-staffers who promised not to sue him or the agency, the General Land Office (GLO).

But did Bush break the law? That may be a more complicated question.

The Standard invited the General Land Office to the show, but a spokesperson said the GLO didn’t want to make any statement on this beyond a response published yesterday.

Rosenthal says their numbers came from a “simple analysis” of the agency’s severance agreements – multiplying the amount of time each employee will remain on the payroll by each employee’s monthly salary. They did this for each of the 40 employees whose agreements the Chronicle obtained, which they posted online. The agreements outline restrictions for the employees, including language that they cannot sue the GLO.

“That came out to about $655,000 in salary,” he says. “But then, remember, you have to also take into account, when you’re a state worker, you also get pretty good benefits.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– The portion of the $1 million figure that comes from state employees’ benefits

– How Bush is running the state agency more like a commercial entreprise

– Where the money to pay ex-staffers comes from