88th LegislatureIssuesTaxes & SpendingSpeaker Phelan Says Paxton’s $3.3 Million Settlement Not a ‘Proper Use’ of Tax Dollars

Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C. are reportedly taking over the investigation of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
February 16, 2023
After Attorney General Ken Paxton entered into a $3.3 million agreement to settle a whistleblower lawsuit, Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) indicated he believes the settlement would not be a “proper use of taxpayer dollars.”

Phelan made the remarks in an interview with CBS DFW.

“I don’t anticipate that $3.3 million being in the House budget,” Phelan said.

“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.”

In 2020, four fired employees at the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) sued Paxton for terminating them after they accused him of bribery and abuse of office. They alleged he used his position to benefit his friend Nate Paul, a real estate developer. The case has been tied up in the appeals process as Paxton argued he could not be sued under the Texas Whistleblowers Act.

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As part of the settlement, he also reportedly admitted that he had an extramarital affair with a woman who would later work for Paul upon Paxton’s reference.

The names of the four employees are James Blake Brickman, David Maxwell, Mark Penley, and Ryan Vassar.

Paxton entered into a settlement agreement with them, agreeing to pay $3.3 million. There were also other concessions, including an apology from Paxton for calling them “rogue employees.” Paxton claims he terminated them for other reasons.

A special unit of the U.S. Department of Justice is taking over the investigation of Paxton and removing it from federal prosecutors in Texas, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Paxton has repeatedly denied doing anything illegal and has not been charged by the federal government.

However, he still has not been tried on state securities fraud charges filed in 2015.

The OAG did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.


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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."