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Houston state representative fires back against allegations by former staffers

State Rep. Jolanda Jones, D-Houston, speaks at the Texas Capitol on Feb. 8. Three members of Jones' senior staff resigned abruptly in late March.
Sergio Martinez-Beltran / The Texas Newsroom
State Rep. Jolanda Jones, D-Houston, speaks at the Texas Capitol on Feb. 8. Three members of Jones' senior staff resigned abruptly in late March.

The response comes nearly a week after state Rep. Jolanda “Jo” Jones’ senior staff resigned and accused the lawmaker of running a “toxic” workplace. Staffers said the Democrat engaged in “physically threatening behavior” and demanded staff deal with issues involving Jones’ personal life.

A Democratic state representative from Houston whose senior staff abruptly resigned last week is challenging the allegations levied against her and admonishing her former employers for publicly shaming her son and an intern.

In a letter sent last week to state Rep. Jolanda “Jo” Jones, D-Houston, three former staff members accused Jones of knowing her son was having an inappropriate relationship with a intern in her office, which they said shows a lack of respect for the staff and “diminishes the morality of the office.”

Additionally, they argued the same son is also the general counsel for a lobbying outfit Jones is tied to and that his relationship with the intern represents a conflict of interest.

Jones fired back on Wednesday in a two-page statement in which she said the allegations against her son are fabrications. Jones said her intern, whom she described as an educated and mature adult, should not have been identified.

“After visiting with my ‘intern’ that was wrongfully, publicly identified in the letter, she categorically denies any wrongdoing or participation in any inappropriate relationship with my son,” Jones said. “My intern is a 26-year-old woman with two degrees, one of which is a graduate degree and who’s currently working on her doctorate degree.”

Kory Haywood, Jones’ former chief of staff, was one of the signees to last week’s resignation letter. Haywood said it was never meant to be shared publicly and was instead leaked to the press and others by an unknown Capitol source. Haywood declined to comment on Jones’ statement Wednesday.

Jones added that though last Thursday’s letter describes her son as significantly older than the intern in the alleged affair, he is 31 and she is 26. She adds that the allegations being made public have retraumatized and revictimized her intern, who Jones revealed – with the intern’s permission – is a survivor of sexual assault.

“Regardless of any political capital that I may lose through this matter, I will not allow this young, promising professional to be given a scarlet letter,” Jones said.

Jones also blasted other allegations made about her son, whom the former staffers called a gas lighter and abuser.

“Mental health is a silent killer in our state, particularly among Black men,” Jones wrote. “I am equally outraged that they would make allegations about the mental health of my son, again without any documentation to substantiate the claim.”

In their resignation letter, the former staffers also alleged that Jones demanded rides to the airport in pre-dawn hours, disparaged staffers’ family members and threatened to terminate staff members. Jones didn’t address those allegations in her statement.

The representative concluded by saying she will cooperate with any investigation the House Committee on Administration may pursue and that she will make additional comments on the matter.

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