Texas AG Office to Pay $3.3M to Settle Whistleblower Claims

February 10, 2023 by Dan McCue
Texas AG Office to Pay $3.3M to Settle Whistleblower Claims
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at the Austin Police Association on Sept. 10, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

AUSTIN, Texas — The Office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will pay $3.3 million to settle whistleblower claims from four former highly placed staffers who alleged they were fired for reporting Paxton’s abuse of his power.

In addition, the document filed Friday morning in the Texas Supreme Court requires Paxton to personally acknowledge the “plaintiffs acted in a manner that they thought was right” and to apologize for calling them “rogue employees.”

The cover of the 10-page filing notes the settlement is contingent “upon all necessary approvals for funding.” 

Because Paxton’s office and not Paxton himself agreed to pay the settlement, it is likely the Texas Legislature will have to sign off on the deal and approve taking the money out of state coffers.

Paxton was reelected last year, but the legal fracas goes back to at least 2020, when several of his senior employees accused him of crimes ranging from bribery to improper influence and reported his alleged activities to law enforcement.

Specifically, Paxton was accused of abusing his office to help a campaign donor, Texas real estate developer Nate Paul. 

Four of the employees were let go after their accusations became public, and they later claimed they were fired in retaliation for being whistleblowers.

In their lawsuit, they also accused Paxton of having an affair with a woman who worked for Paul’s World Class Capital Group.

The claims eventually led to an investigation by the FBI, though no charges were ever filed.

Paxton always denied the allegations against him, asserting he was the target of a political witch hunt. The document filed Friday includes a reminder that a settlement means there has been no admission of “liability or fault” by any party.

A portion of the settlement will be structured as 27 months’ back pay to Ryan Vassar, one of the plaintiffs, who was formerly the deputy attorney general for legal counsel in the Texas AG’s office.

Paxton’s office will also take whatever additional steps are necessary for Vassar to receive 27 months’ service credit toward the state retirement plan.

Last, the office of the attorney general has agreed to permanently remove a press release from its website in which Paxton responded to the allegations.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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