Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Comptroller Glenn Hegar stepped into the conversation around “emergency leave” on Wednesday, ordering state agencies to stop using the system as a form of severance pay.
State employees in Texas are not awarded severance pay when departing a job, but theDallas Morning News and other media outlets have recently reported on the growing practice of state agencies placing employees on emergency leave when they’re fired or leave their post.
The Tribune’s Terri Langford wrote that Abbott and Hegar’s directive will stay in place until the Legislature addresses the issue during next year’s session. In May, state senators vowed to look at the issue in January and “tighten it up.”
Langford wrote that “the practice first came to light after reports that Texas Attorney GeneralKen Paxton paid his first assistant attorney and communications director for months after they left the agency. Subsequent stories revealed the General Land Office continued to pay departing employees without using the emergency leave designation.”
Mike Rylander, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, told Langford their office would follow the governor’s new directive and added: “We appreciate Governor Abbott’s leadership.”
The General Land Office will also obey Abbott’s order, as spokeswoman Brittany Eck said the agency will stop using “separation agreements” until lawmakers decide how to move forward.
“We look forward to continuing our work with the Governor, Comptroller, and members of the Texas Legislature to not only clarify the law on this issue but also discuss how state agencies should manage its workforce in an efficient and cost-effective manner,” Eck said in a statement.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus also weighed in on the directive, writing a letter to Republican state Rep. John Kuempel, who chairs the General Investigating and Ethics Committee, asking him to examine how agencies use emergency leave payments.
“The public should have confidence that state agencies are being cautious with taxpayer dollars,” Straus wrote in the letter.