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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moves to end whistleblower lawsuit that prompted impeachment

Ken Paxton, left, speaks with his attorney Tony Buzbee, right, inside the Capitol on Sept. 5, the first day of Paxton's Senate impeachment trial.
Michael Minasi
Ken Paxton, left, speaks with his attorney Tony Buzbee, right, inside the Capitol on Sept. 5, the first day of Paxton's Senate impeachment trial.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is trying a new strategy in the hopes of ridding himself of the whistleblower lawsuit that prompted his impeachment.

On Thursday, Paxton announced that his agency would no longer contest the lawsuit filed by four former employees who were fired after they accused him of corruption. He said this would put an end to the litigation.

“I will not allow these former employees to deter me from doing the job that voters elected me to do. For these reasons, we have moved to end this litigation and eliminate the distractions associated with it,” Paxton said in a statement.

Paxton announced the decision just days after the Texas Supreme Court shot down his attempts to avoid being questioned under oath in the case.

Michael P. Maslanka, an expert on whistleblower laws, said this effectively ends the lawsuit.

“They have agreed to an entry of judgment against themselves,” said Maslanka, a University of North Texas at Dallas associate professor of law. “That ends the litigation.”

But Tom Nesbitt, the lawyer for whistleblower Blake Brickman, said they are not giving up and called this move by Paxton a "stunt ... to prevent the truth from coming out."

"The lawsuit is not over," Nesbitt told The Texas Newsroom.

"Ken Paxton has never answered questions about his illegal and corrupt conduct. He is clearly terrified of doing so — even if it means taking a different position now about him breaking the law than he did at his impeachment trial," he added.

In a court filing accompanying his announcement, the attorney general's office said it is up to the state Legislature "whether and when to fund such judgment, whether in whole or in part."

In their lawsuit, the employees said they were wrongly terminated for accusing Paxton of corrupt acts involving a campaign donor. They reported him to the FBI in late 2020.

The lawsuit was briefly settled last year when the sides agreed Paxton would apologize for calling the whistleblowers “rogue employees” and pay them $3.3 million. But the deal fell apart when the state Legislature, which needed to approve funding for the settlement, declined to do so.

The Texas House later impeached Paxton based on the whistleblowers’ corruption allegations. After a trial, the Texas Senate acquitted him.

Paxton is still under FBI investigation for the allegations the whistleblowers raised. The donor at the center of the scandal, Austin-based real estate developer Nate Paul, is also under federal indictment for unrelated financial crimes.

Copyright 2024 KUT News. To see more, visit KUT News.

Lauren McGaughy