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Democrats working to clean up after GOP ‘Emergency Leave’ scandal

Last year, a scandal was exposed detailing how George P. Bush, Ken Paxton and other Republican leaders funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds to former state employees who no longer performed any service for taxpayers. In some cases, taxpayer money was used as hush funds to silence former employees so Republican leaders wouldn’t face media criticism or be named in lawsuits over incriminating or embarrassing information known by former employees.

As the scandal unraveled, it became clear that Attorney General Ken Paxton, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Land Commissioner George P. Bush were deeply involved in widespread abuse of taxpayer money and state employee compensation. Bush, for example, had doctored employee time sheets and had given over $1 million in taxpayer dollars to former employees to avoid being sued by former Land Commission staff.

As the scandal unraveled and spread to include Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and other Republicans, the Lone Star Project formally requested that the Texas Rangers, the State Auditor and the Travis County District Attorney step in to investigate the improper payments and other related abuses at Republican-led agencies.

A 2016 state auditor’s report found that in addition to the $1 million in “separation agreements” okayed by George P. Bush, other state agencies had spent at least $430,000 in taxpayer funds on so-called “emergency leave” payments from 2014-2016. Many of these payments were illegal.

Despite the clear and widespread abuse, Republican legislative leaders have looked the other way on the scandal. It has been Democrats who have stepped up to clean up the mess and protect taxpayer funds from further abuse.

Today, House Bill 578 is scheduled to hit the floor in the State House. The bill authored by State Rep. Chris Turner (HD 101- Grand Prairie/Arlington) clarifies when emergency leave can be legally granted to employees of the state of Texas.

Under the Turner bill, Texas taxpayers would no longer be on the hook when Republican elected officials decide to dole out tax dollars to former state employees for their own personal or political purposes.

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