IssuesJudicialStatewide NewsTaxes & SpendingPaxton Criticizes ‘Inconceivable’ Demand to Rush Legislative Funding for Whistleblower Settlement

Paxton also accused his opponents of violating confidentiality by referencing “oral communications" during settlement talks.
March 22, 2023
Attorney General Ken Paxton and other state officials with the Office of the Attorney General (AOG) accused the four former employees suing Paxton of making an “inconceivable” demand that he guarantee a timeline to procure funding from the Legislature for a settlement agreement.

Earlier this month, the four former employees — James Brickman, J. Mark Penley, David Maxwell, and Ryan Vassar — said Paxton is trying to get out of paying the $3.3 million proposed agreement by placing no deadline on his efforts to get the legislative appropriation. They requested the Texas Supreme Court resume the case, which is currently on pause due to the settlement negotiations.

Brickman, Penley, Maxwell, and Vassar were among those who were fired or resigned in the fall of 2020 after reporting to federal authorities their suspicions that Paxton had abused his office and committed bribery. Paxton has denied wrongdoing.

In court documents, Paxton contended on Monday his opponents knew full well the settlement would require legislative funding, and it is unreasonable to expect it to happen in such a short period of time.

“Indeed, no timing provision can be imposed upon the Texas Legislature for any appropriation without running afoul of the Texas Constitution,” the brief read.

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“And whatever time limitation respondents may try to read into the (mediated settlement agreement), it is inconceivable that the Parties contracted to allow themselves mere weeks — and less than one half of a single legislative session — to run the bureaucratic and legislative gauntlet that securing approval of the (mediated settlement agreement) will require.”

Monday was the halfway mark in the 88th Legislative Session. Committees are still meeting to hear testimony and consider items of business, including the appropriations bill. The Texas House has not yet taken up any bills on the floor.

The OAG accused the plaintiffs of violating confidentiality by referencing “oral communications” in their filing. The OAG also said they are “coordinating with the media in what can only be construed as a public-relations campaign to influence settlement discussions.”

During an interview in February, Speaker Dade Phelan (R Beaumont) expressed his belief that the settlement is not a good way to spend taxpayer money. Phelan placed the onus on Paxton to convince lawmakers to foot the bill.

The OAG testified in the House Appropriations Committee that the settlement is less expensive than continuing to litigate the case.

A copy of Paxton’s filing can be found below.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."