88th LegislatureState HouseStatewide NewsPaxton Calls on Phelan to Resign Amid House Probe into Whistleblower Settlement Payment

Phelan has said allotting state dollars to aid in Paxton's $3.3 million “whistleblower” lawsuit settlement would not be a “proper use of taxpayer dollars.”
May 23, 2023
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called on Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) to resign on Wednesday, citing a viral 44-second long video of the speaker from last week in which he slurred his words while presiding over a floor debate.

“After much consideration, it is with profound disappointment that I call on Speaker Dade Phelan to resign at the end of this legislative session,” Paxton said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Texans were dismayed to witness his performance presiding over the Texas House in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication.”

Paxton also sent a letter to House General Investigating Committee Chairman Andrew Murr (R-Junction) asking for the body to look into the “conduct unbecoming of his position.”

Murr and the committee held a meeting on Tuesday afternoon during which they went into executive session, but then later announced publicly that it would issue two subpoenas in undefined “Matter A”: a “John Doe Number 6” and the Office of the Attorney General.

The committee will hear public testimony on this matter on Wednesday at 8 a.m.

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The order of events on Tuesday proceeded as follows:

  • At around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the House General Investigating Committee announced a meeting to come at 3:00 p.m.
  • At 2:53 p.m., Paxton tweeted out his statement calling for the speaker’s resignation.
  • At 3:00 p.m., the committee convened and went into executive session.
  • At 3:10 p.m., the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) tweeted out the letter sent to the committee calling for an investigation into Phelan.
  • At around 4:40 p.m., the committee announced publicly that it had issued the two subpoenas in “Matter A” and would hear public testimony the following day at 8:00 a.m.

Following that, a letter was released from the committee to the OAG disclosing it had been looking into Paxton and his office in a matter related to the legislative appropriations and a $3.3 million settlement related to a “Whistleblower Act” lawsuit between Paxton and former employees.

Cait Wittman, spokesperson for Phelan, provided The Texan with a lengthy statement in which she said, “Mr. Paxton’s statement today amounts to little more than a last ditch effort to save face.”

The probe, Wittman said, had been ongoing since March.

Until Tuesday, no state or legislative official had commented on the video, including the speaker himself — and there’s been no confirmation that Phelan was in fact inebriated, only social media speculation.

“Of all the elected officials in Texas to cast stones… It’s the guy with pending felony charges,” tweeted Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) in response to Paxton’s statement. 

Paxton has agreed to settle with four former employees who sued him for alleged improper firing after they accused him of misconduct and abuse of office, but the settlement has since broken down.

Phelan then said allotting state budget dollars to aid in this $3.3 million lawsuit settlement would not be a “proper use of taxpayer dollars.”

The speaker’s office has thus far declined to comment on the speculation surrounding the video and Paxton’s statement.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated throughout.

Rob Laucius and McKenzie DiLullo contributed to this report.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.