By: Stacy M. Brown / NNPA
Texas State Rep. Jolanda Jones earned kudos for her advocacy in the LGBTQ community, her prowess as a track star, and her work as a criminal defense attorney.
But other attributes stand out for those who have worked with and know the District 147 representative.
Critics have pinned words and descriptions on Jones like “over the top,” “combative,” and “arrogant.”
When she appeared on CBS TV’s Survivor, Jones was ultimately described as “that bitch.”
The former Houston City Council member finds herself in hot water after her entire staff quit. They presented Jones a resignation letter full of accusations of wrongdoing.
The staff accused Jones of fostering a hostile workplace in a letter that Chief of Staff Kory Haywood, Legislative Director Catherine Mouer, and District Director Yesenia Wences all signed.
They also said that the outspoken Democrat made it easy for her son, Jiovanni Christian Teheran-Jones, to have an inappropriate relationship with an intern.
Jones, 57, did nothing to intercede or stop her son’s misconduct, the staffers allege.
Jiovanni Jones, 31, and two other individuals were arrested in January on felony drug possession charges while at Guadalupe River State Park.
Jones is currently free on a $20,000 bond.
“We, as a collective of senior staff, have repeatedly attempted to curb your behavior and address the type of work environment you have bred over the last month,” the four-page letter reads.
“But, to no avail; we haven’t seen any success. You have continued to endorse, encourage, and create an abusive and hostile work environment in the workplace without accountability for you or your relatives’ actions.”
The staff said that Teheran-Jones’ relationship with the office intern “shows disrespect for the workplace and lowers the office’s morale.”
They challenged Jones, writing, “Jiovanni is not only your son but General Counsel at Elite Change Inc., the registered lobbying firm and the financial vehicle of the representatives’ campaign manager, Dallas Jones.”
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The employees said that this relationship might amount to sexual harassment or a conflict of interest between Dallas Jones’ office and Jolanda Jones’ state office.
Among the myriad of charges in the letter, the employees said:
• Jones abused the power of her office by manipulating Wences to falsely take the blame for finding out that her son’s affair was with a much younger intern.
• The younger Jones threatened to state false allegations to his mother that Wences conducted illegal business in the state office because he’s reportedly angry at her.
• Jones knew her son had a severe mental illness and yet decided to place Wences in harm’s way.
• Further, Jones had involved her staff in her personal and family affairs without regard for work-life boundaries and the scope of the staff’s employment.
• Jones asked staff to assist in coordinating the terminal cancer treatment of her son’s father-in-law.
• Jones instructed her staff to involve themselves in her son’s legal issues and criminal charges.
• Jones called staff at all hours of the night and on weekends to discuss work and to drive her from place to place.
In 2018, Jones wrote the book, “Owning My S.H.I.T: Suffering Hardship and Internalizing Trauma.
When concluding their letter, Jones’ staff said, “It is time you own your SHIT.”
Jones did not return telephone messages left by the Black Press.
Earlier, she released a statement about her staff’s resignation.
“Working in the Texas Legislature is a stressful and demanding job, especially when you are in a daily fight to protect your constituents from attacks on their families, civil rights, schools, and their ability to control their own bodies.” Jones wrote.
“Some of my staff have decided this job is not for them. I wish them good luck and success in their next endeavors.”
In May 2022, Jones became the state’s first openly gay and Black state legislator. At least two others identifying with the LGBTQ community have joined Jones in the Texas legislature.
Throughout her political career, which dates to the early 2000s as a Houston Independent School District trustee and a member of Houston City Council, Jones had enjoyed the backing of Democrat heavyweights like US Rep. Al Green, former Houston Mayor Lee Brown, and State Rep. Ron Reynolds.
In 2016, Jones was among the six African American lawyers cast in the WE tv network reality show, “Sisters in Law,” which chronicled their personal lives and work in the courtroom.
An Alief Elsik High School graduate, Jones later won the US Track and Field Heptathlon and earned three NCAA heptathlon championships.
Despite her courtroom, track, and electoral success, many said Jones’s accomplishments paled when comparing how she dealt with others.
When a “Survivor” contestant referred to her as a “bitch,” and “an angry Black woman,” Jones told Entertainment Weekly those labels caused her to form the Black Survivor Alliance.
“To end systematic racism on Survivor,” she insisted on why she started the alliance.
“[Survivor Producer] Mark Burnett foreshadowed portraying me as a ‘bitch,’ his word, not mine, and I didn’t figure out that that was what he was actually going to do because I hadn’t watched previous Survivor. I actually thought Survivor honestly portrayed players. I was wrong.”
But those who worked with her said she was the wrong one.
Her legislative staffers claimed that, on many occasions, Jones demanded they pick her up from the airport at midnight or drop her off at 3 a.m.
They alleged that she placed frequent and non-state-related business calls between 9:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. and that Jones repeatedly used state resources for personal gain.
“You have repeatedly called staff while you are in personal situations, such as the shower. You have engaged in physically threatening behavior in public view that has made staff feel unsafe and compromised their ability to complete their duties,” the staffers allege.
“This behavior has also distracted witnesses and other staffers. You have threatened to fire staff members on a daily basis, holding it over their heads for compliance in ethically questionable situations.”
“You have made disparaging remarks about staffers’ family members and threatened retaliation if that information is shared with the related staff members.”