88th LegislatureIssuesJudicialTaxes & SpendingPaxton’s Settlement Imperiled as ‘Whistleblowers’ Doubt Legislature Will Pay Out

Attorneys for Paxton’s opponents say he is seeking “all the benefits of the settlement” without having to convince state lawmakers to pay it.
March 10, 2023
The $3.3 million settlement Attorney General Ken Paxton is seeking to reach with four former employees of his office is in peril after the so-called whistleblowers suing him filed court documents signaling their doubt of Paxton’s ability to convince the Legislature to fund it.

In February, Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) commented in an interview that it would be Paxton’s job to persuade lawmakers the public should foot the bill for settling the case.

“Mr. Paxton’s going to have to come to the Texas House, he’s going to have to appear before the Appropriations Committee, and make a case to that committee as to why that is a proper use of taxpayer dollars, and then he’s going to have to sell it to 76 members of the Texas House. That is his job, not mine,” Phelan said.

He also said he did not consider it an appropriate use of public funds and did not “anticipate” it being added to the budget. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) told the House Appropriations Committee the settlement is the less expensive option, considering how much it would cost to continue litigation.

Paxton’s team asked the Texas Supreme Court to put the case on hold last month while the details of a settlement were hashed over. The former OAG employees asked the state’s highest civil court to allow the case to proceed on the ground that Paxton may not be able to secure funding for the settlement by the time the Legislature gavels out.

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In a motion to reinstate the case, attorneys for Paxton’s opponents railed against the OAG for what they perceived as Paxton seeking the advantages of a settlement while leaving their clients empty-handed.

“If funding approval is not achieved this session, OAG says the case should remain abated until the 89th Legislature considers it in 2025. And if that Legislature refuses to approve it, OAG says the abatement should remain in place until the following session. And so on in perpetuity,” they wrote.

“OAG tells Respondents the case will never resume; they have given up their claims forever, even if legislative approval is not forthcoming. OAG thus reaps all benefits of a settlement, and Respondents achieve none.”

The motion went on to say that Paxton could revive the settlement negotiations by agreeing to make it contingent on the House and Senate funding it by the time the Legislature adjourns sine die in May.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declined to answer a question about the settlement on Thursday during a news conference about the reliability of the Texas energy grid.

The four former employees, James Brickman, J. Mark Penley, David Maxwell, and Ryan Vassar, accused Paxton of firing them for reporting to the federal government their suspicions that he had committed bribery and abuse of office. Paxton has denied the allegations.

A copy of the motion to resume the case 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."