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Government/Politics

Governor Directs All State Agencies To Refrain From Using Emergency Leave

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Ryan E. Poppe
/
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an order to all state agencies, requesting they not use emergency leave and severance packages for state employees intending to leave the job.  Non-profits focused on state ethics codes say the Legislature should also be doing more to fix the problem and investigate agencies for alleged abuse.

Governor Abbott introduced the new policy in a memo.  He says that the State Comptroller will be verifying that each state agency is adhering to the new policy and will conduct audits for past potential abuse.  The Legislature will also review the current policies and make any and all necessary changes during the 2017 legislative cycle.

Marc Rylander is the communications director for the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

“We believe we have followed the law to this point.  We will continue to do so, if the Legislature in some way changes the law then we will change the way we approach and handle these issues.  But for right now we have given statements, op-eds from our human resource director, we have given a full gambit of information showing and proving we have followed the government code up to this point," Rylander explains.

While the new policy doesn’t highlight payment agreements for former employees at the Attorney General’s office, reports from the Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News point to multiple incidents of potential abuse for that office and other state agencies.

Tom “Smitty” Smith is with the ethics watchdog non-profit Public Citizen.

“This is not just an issue with Ken Paxton at the Attorney General’s office,  but it has also been plaguing other agencies like the Ag Commission and General Land Office and it’s something the Legislature needs to step in and stop," Smith says.

Going forward, the Governor’s office says the head of each state agency must directly sign off and authorize any sort of emergency leave and verify it is not being used as severance pay.