AP

Texas AG settles with former aides who reported him to FBI

Feb 10, 2023, 10:17 AM | Updated: 3:45 pm

DALLAS (AP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has agreed to apologize and pay $3.3 million in taxpayer money to four former staffers who accused him of corruption in 2020, igniting an ongoing FBI investigation of the three-term Republican.

Under terms of a preliminary lawsuit settlement filed Friday, Paxton made no admission of wrongdoing to accusations of bribery and abuse of office, which he has denied for years and called politically motivated.

But Paxton did commit to making a remarkable public apology toward some of his formerly trusted advisers whom he fired or forced out after they reported him to the FBI. He called them “rogue employees” after they accused Paxton of misusing his office to help one of his campaign contributors, who also employed a woman with whom the attorney general acknowledged having an extramarital affair.

Both sides signed a mediated agreement that was filed in the Texas Supreme Court and will be followed by a longer, formalized settlement.

“Attorney General Ken Paxton accepts that plaintiffs acted in a manner that they thought was right and apologizes for referring to them as ‘rogue employees,'” the final settlement must state, according to court records.

In all, eight members of Paxton’s senior staff joined in the extraordinary revolt in 2020, and they either resigned or were fired. The attorney general said he settled with the four who sued under Texas’ whistleblower law to put to rest “this unfortunate sideshow.”

“I have chosen this path to save taxpayer dollars and ensure my third term as attorney general is unburdened by unnecessary distractions,” Paxton said in a statement.

The $3.3 million payout would not come from Paxton’s own pocket but from state funds, which means it would still require approval by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature.

Settlement of the case, which Paxton’s office fought in court for years, means he will avoid sitting for a civil deposition at a time when a corruption investigation by federal agents and prosecutors remains open. In turn, the attorney general’s office agreed to remove an October 2020 news release from its website that decries Paxton’s accusers and to issue the statement of contrition to former staffers David Maxwell, Ryan Vassar, Mark Penley and James Blake Brickman.

“The whistleblowers sacrificed their jobs and have spent more than two years fighting for what is right,” said Maxwell’s lawyer, TJ Turner. Brickman was not part of the mediation with Paxton’s office but joined the settlement, attorney Tom Nesbitt said, after being asked to and negotiating “significant non-monetary terms.”

The settlement also prevents Paxton from seeking the withdrawal of a 2021 appeals court ruling that state whistleblower law applies to the attorney general.

The agreement does not include any provisions limiting the ability of Paxton’s accusers to make public statements or cooperate with federal investigators.

The deal comes more than two years after Paxton’s staff accused him of misusing his office to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, whose business was also under federal investigation. The allegations centered on Paxton hiring an outside lawyer to investigate Paul’s claims of misconduct by the FBI.

Paxton and Paul have broadly denied wrongdoing and neither has been charged with a federal crime.

In the wake of the revolt, an Associated Press investigation in September found that Paxton’s agency has come unmoored, with seasoned lawyers quitting over practices they say slant legal work, reward loyalists and drum out dissent.

But the investigation, accusations and a separate 2015 securities fraud indictment for which Paxton has yet to face trial have done little to hurt him politically. He easily defeated challenger George P. Bush in a contested GOP primary last spring, went on to decisively beat his Democratic opponent and secure a third term in November and has filed a steady stream of legal challenges to the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden.

While swearing in Paxton to another four years on the job last month, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott described it as an easy call during the midterm elections to keep backing him.

“I supported Ken Paxton because I thought the way he was running the attorney general’s office was the right way to run the attorney general’s office,” said Abbott.

___

Associated Press reporter Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Most Americans are sleepy new Gallup poll finds...

Associated Press

Most Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to new Gallup poll

A new Gallup poll found that most Americans are sleepy — or, at least, they say they are. Multiple factors play into this.

2 days ago

Near-total abortion ban in Arizona dates back to Civil War era...

Associated Press

Near-total abortion ban dates back to 1864, during the Civil War, before Arizona was a state

The near-total abortion ban resurrected last week by the Arizona Supreme Court dates to 1864, when settlers were encroaching on tribal lands.

2 days ago

Tracy Toulou...

Associated Press

How to tackle crime in Indian Country? Empower tribal justice, ex-Justice Department official says

A recently retired director of the Justice Dept. says the federal government hasn't given tribal justice systems equal recognition.

3 days ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson...

Associated Press

House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will push for aid to Israel and Ukraine this week

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to advance wartime aid for Israel this week, along with funding for Ukraine.

3 days ago

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally Saturday, March 9, 2024, at Pullman Yards in Atlanta...

Associated Press

US shoots down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones as Biden vows support for Israel’s defense

Joe Biden cut short a weekend stay at his beach house to meet with his national security team as Iran launched an attack against Israel.

4 days ago

Protesters in Phoenix shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona state Capitol after ...

Associated Press

Abortion ruling supercharges Arizona to be an especially important swing state

A ruling this week instituting a near-total abortion ban supercharged Arizona's role, turning it into the most critical battleground.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

Texas AG settles with former aides who reported him to FBI