Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, has agreed to a $3.3 million settlement to four aides who he fired after they accused him of corruption. In a lawsuit that is already at the Texas Supreme Court, the former aides alleged that Paxton fired them in retaliation because they expressed concerns over his financial crimes and other related corrupt practices.
The four former aides are Ryan Vassar, former deputy attorney general for legal counsel; Mark Penley, former deputy attorney general for criminal justice; James Blake Brickman, former deputy attorney general for policy; and David Maxwell, a former director of the law enforcement division. The four accused Paxton of bribery, obstructing a criminal investigation, and abusing his office, among other offenses.
The four aides filed their complaints with the FBI and Texas Rangers, and equally copied the Office of the Attorney General. A few weeks after, Paxton fired the four men and then released a 374-page report vindicating himself of any offense. The attorney general called the men “rogue employees” and stated that the Texas Whistleblower Act does not apply to him and other elected state officials.
But the Texas Court of Appeal ruled against him, and the case is still at the Supreme Court. David Maxwell is represented by T.J. Turner and James Brickman is represented by Tom Nesbitt. The lawyers said their clients were retaliated upon for doing “what is right.”
There is also a pending 7-year-old criminal case in which Paxton when he was a member of the State House, was accused of motivating investors to commit more than $600,000 to a company without informing them that he stood to earn commissions on their investment. In the ongoing case, the plaintiffs accused Paxton of using his office to promote the business interests of Nate Paul, a wealthy real estate investor in Austin and a political donor.
Having been re-elected for a third term in November, Paxton said he agreed to pay the $3.3 million to prevent the distractions that would attend upon his new term in office. “I have reached a settlement agreement to put this issue to rest,” he said in a statement on Friday. “I have chosen this path to save taxpayer dollars and ensure my third term as attorney general is unburdened by unnecessary distractions.”
Paxton’s office also filed his agreement to the settlement with the Texas Supreme Court on Friday. “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.’” He also promised to remove the reference that the four plaintiffs were rogue employees from the website of the attorney general’s office.
The $3.3 million settlement will come from state funds and must be approved by the state House of Assembly. If the state legislature refuses to fund the settlement, then the case will resume at the Supreme Court, as per the terms of the settlement agreement.