Texas AG Agrees to Pay $3.3 Million in Settlement with Whistleblowers

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has agreed to a $3.3 million settlement and an apology as part of a tentative settlement with four whistleblowers who publicly accused Paxton of abuse of office, bribery and other criminal offenses in 2020.[0] The settlement, once finalized, will include a statement from Paxton saying he “accepts that plaintiffs acted in a manner that they thought was right and apologizes for referring to them as ‘rogue employees.’” The attorney general’s office also agreed to delete a news release from its website that called the whistleblowers “rogue employees.”[1]

The four former employees, James Blake Brickman, Mark Penley, Ryan Vassar, and David Maxwell, filed a whistleblower lawsuit in November 2020 claiming Paxton had improperly retaliated against them after they accused him of criminal acts.[2] They requested to be reinstated in their positions and be recompensed for their lost wages, as well as being compensated for future lost wages and further be awarded damages for emotional pain and suffering.[3]

Vassar will be compensated for 27 months worth of wages he would have earned if he had not been dismissed, as part of a settlement agreement.[4] This will enable Vassar, ex-Deputy Attorney General for Legal Counsel, to accrue 27 months of service credit for his state pension plan.[3]

Since the settlement will be paid for with public money, it must be approved by the Texas Legislature.[5] Jeff Leach, a State Representative who leads the House committee that monitors the AG's Office, expressed his strong worry and apprehension in a statement that taxpayers may have to pay for the settlement between the Attorney General and the ex-employees of his office.[1]

Leach stated to The Texas Tribune that he had spoken with the Attorney General that morning and made it clear to him that, as representatives of their constituencies, legislators will have questions that need answering.[6]

In November, Paxton was voted back in as attorney general.[7]

The proposed settlement would provide $3.3 million to the four whistleblowers, while preserving the appeals court decision that enabled the case to progress.[8] Paxton requested the Supreme Court to annul the ruling.[9]

Paxton consented to take down the 2020 press release from the website of his office in which he labeled his aides as “rogue”.[7]

0. “Texas AG Paxton to pay $3.3M settlement to whistleblowers” Yahoo Life, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/texas-ag-paxton-pay-3-215117068.html

1. “Texas AG Ken Paxton reaches $3.3 million settlement with former employees in whistleblower case” WFAA.com, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/attorney-general-ken-paxton-settles-whistleblower-lawsuit/287-43131cdc-2e48-414a-a1ca-fcca1fab9093

2. “Texas' Paxton to Apologize, Pay $3 Million to Whistleblowers (1)” Bloomberg Law, 10 Feb. 2023, https://news.bloomberglaw.com/white-collar-and-criminal-law/texas-paxton-to-pay-3-million-to-aides-who-reported-him-to-fbi

3. “Attorney General Ken Paxton agrees to apologize and pay $3.3 million to whistleblowers in settlement” KPRC Click2Houston, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.click2houston.com/news/texas/2023/02/10/attorney-general-ken-paxton-agrees-to-apologize-and-pay-33-million-to-whistleblowers-in-settlement/

4. “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to settle with four whistleblowers for $3.3 million” USA TODAY, 11 Feb. 2023, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2023/02/11/texas-ken-paxton-settle-whistleblowers/11236387002/

5. “Paxton Agrees To $3.3 Million Settlement In Whistleblower Case – 710am KURV” kurv, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.kurv.com/paxton-agrees-to-3-3-million-settlement-in-whistleblower-case/

6. “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton agrees to settle whistleblower lawsuit for $3.3M” CBS DFW, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/dfw/news/ken-paxton-settles-whistleblower-laswuit/

7. “Texas Attorney General Paxton agrees to $3.3 million settlement with whistleblowers who accused him of abuse of …” LocalNews8.com, 11 Feb. 2023, https://localnews8.com/politics/cnn-us-politics/2023/02/10/texas-attorney-general-paxton-agrees-to-3-3-million-settlement-with-whistleblowers-who-accused-him-of-abuse-of-office-and-bribery

8. “Texas AG Ken Paxton Agrees to Settle Whistleblower Lawsuit for $3.3 Million” The Epoch Times, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.theepochtimes.com/texas-ag-ken-paxton-agrees-to-settle-whistleblower-lawsuit-for-3-3-million_5049784.html

9. “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton agrees to apologize and pay $3.3 million to whistleblowers in settlement” KWTX, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.kwtx.com/2023/02/10/texas-attorney-general-ken-paxton-agrees-apologize-pay-33-million-whistleblowers-settlement