Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton settles accounts with former aides who have accused him of corruption

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton settles accounts with former aides who have accused him of corruption

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  • February 11, 2023
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FILE: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to reporters after the US Supreme Court heard arguments in the Title 42 case April 26, 2022 in Washington, DC Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has agreed to apologize and pay $3.3 million in taxpayer money to four former employees who accused him of corruption in 2020, ending an ongoing FBI investigation into the three-year Republican in gear set.

Under the terms of a preliminary settlement of the lawsuit filed Friday, Paxton made no admission of wrongdoing on allegations of bribery and abuse of office, which he has denied for years and said are politically motivated.

But Paxton committed a notable public apology to some of his formerly trusted advisors, whom he fired or coerced after they reported him to the FBI. He called them “rogue employees” after they accused Paxton of abusing his office to help one of his campaign workers, who also employed a woman with whom the attorney general admitted to having an extramarital affair.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Both sides signed a mediation agreement that has been filed with the Texas Supreme Court and will be followed by a lengthy, formalized settlement.

“Attorney General Ken Paxton accepts that the plaintiffs acted as they believed fit and apologizes for calling them ‘rogue employees,'” the final settlement read, according to court documents.

In total, eight Paxton executives joined the extraordinary revolt in 2020 and either resigned or were fired. The settlement is with four of them who sued under the Texas whistleblower law.

The payout would not come out of Paxton’s own pocket but would come from state funds, meaning it would still have to be approved by the GOP-controlled Texas legislature.

The settlement of the case, which Paxton’s office fought for years in court, means he will avoid sitting for civil testimony at a time when a corruption investigation by federal agents and prosecutors is open. In exchange, the Attorney General’s Office agreed to remove an October 2020 press release from its website condemning Paxton’s accusers and to issue the statement of repentance to former employees David Maxwell, Ryan Vassar, Mark Penley and James Blake Brickman.

The settlement also prevents Paxton from seeking to reverse a 2021 appeals court ruling that the state’s whistleblower statute applies to the attorney general.

The agreement contains no provisions that limit the ability of Paxton prosecutors to make public statements or cooperate with federal investigators.

The deal comes more than two years after Paxton’s associates accused him of abusing 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 attorney to investigate Paul’s allegations of FBI misconduct.

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 was derailed and senior attorneys quit for practices they said neglect legal work, reward loyalists and root out dissent.

But the investigation, allegations and a separate securities fraud charge in 2015, for which Paxton has yet to go to trial, did him little harm politically. He easily defeated challenger George P. Bush in a hard-fought GOP primary last spring, decisively defeated his Democratic opponent and secured a third term in November, and has filed a steady stream of legal challenges against Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration.

While Republican Gov. Greg Abbott Paxton swore in another four years in office last month, during the midterm elections he described it as an easy decision to continue supporting him.

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

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