Why are Texas HR attorneys so scared of the courts?
The Texas Human Rights Commission’s investigation into a string of sexual harassment complaints against its former attorneys revealed the agency was understaffed and underpaid, and it was unprepared for the wave of sexual misconduct accusations it has received.
In a report released Wednesday, the commission said it was overwhelmed with the number of sexual-harassment complaints it had received over the past five years.
It said it spent more than $600,000 in its first year on the job, but that it did not have the resources to fully investigate all the cases it handled.
“As of June 1, 2018, the Commission was not able to complete the investigations of all the allegations that it received,” the commission’s report said.
The commission, which is also investigating other workplace issues, did not address the accusations against its current lawyers, but it noted that its staff was too divided.
It also criticized its hiring practices and called for changes to its hiring process.
Texas Human Resources has long been understaffing and underfunded.
It is currently underfunded by more than two-thirds of the state budget, according to the latest estimates.
In January, Texas Human Resource Commission Chairwoman Sherri Neely announced a five-year plan to cut the commission from more than 250 attorneys to fewer than 50.
Neely has said she wants to hire more state employees and said the new plan would be “totally transparent.”
The plan includes increasing staffing and recruiting.
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In February, the Texas Tribune named Neely the “Person of the Year.”
In a letter to the commission, a state legislator who represents the city of Dallas, Republican state Rep. Joe Moody, said he wants to increase the number and salaries of the commission.
“My hope is that we can do that through a new way to hire and retain a staff,” Moody said in the letter.
The letter came after Moody introduced legislation that would make it harder for the commission to make its own hiring decisions.
Moody, a former state legislator, said in an interview he did not want to get caught up in the political firestorm surrounding the sexual-misconduct investigations that have rocked the state’s top law firm.
“It’s just not something that I feel comfortable with,” Moody, R-Dallas, said of the political fallout.
“I think the Texas public needs to be told what the commission has to do.”
Moody, who also serves on the state Board of Equalization, said the state has been “underperforming” its legal and public defenders staffing needs and needs to “get our own house in order.”
“I’m not sure I would be able to do the job if I wasn’t on the commission,” Moody added.
The attorney general has been investigating the sexual misconduct allegations against her own former attorneys for several years, but the commission had to turn over its findings to the attorney general because it lacked a chief of staff to act as a lead investigator, according a report from The Associated Press.
“The commission has never had a chief investigator in its history,” the report said, referring to the former attorney general, Kathleen Hartnett.
In the interim, the panel has had to rely on its staff of former attorneys and attorneys from the criminal justice system who have agreed to participate in the probe.
The investigation has also been met with criticism from outside legal circles.
“We are not asking for a witch hunt,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement released Thursday, in response to the report.
Paxton, who is seeking to succeed McCrory in 2018, has repeatedly called for the creation of a special prosecutor to handle the investigations.
“If you are going to investigate the misconduct allegations, you should do it under the direct supervision of a chief prosecutor,” Paxton told The Associated Media last year.
“This investigation has not been done by a special investigator, and I’m disappointed the attorney generals office hasn’t had a better way to handle it.”
The Associated Statesman newspaper reported last year that the attorney-general’s office is currently looking into whether McCrories administration used state funds to pay attorneys who helped lead the probe of former Democratic Gov.
The state is also looking into the hiring practices of former attorney General Ken Brantly, who died in a Texas hospital from a virus earlier this month.
The report comes after McCrities administration launched a review into the sexual harassment allegations against its own lawyers and former chief of police, and the governor’s office has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The Associated Texas Press contributed to this report.