Bloomberg Law
Feb. 10, 2023, 6:54 PM

Texas’ Paxton to Apologize, Pay $3 Million to Whistleblowers (1)

Madlin Mekelburg
Madlin Mekelburg
Bloomberg News

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton agreed to pay $3.3 million in taxpayer money to four former aides who claim they were fired after accusing him of corruption and prompting a federal probe, according to a preliminary lawsuit settlement.

The embattled Republican attorney general also agreed to make a public apology for referring to the terminated aides as “rogue employees,” a mediated agreement filed Friday with the Texas Supreme Court showed. However, he won’t admit to any of the accusations that prompted the FBI report, according to the document.

“I have chosen this path to save taxpayer dollars and ensure my third term as Attorney General is unburdened by unnecessary distractions,” Paxton said in a statement. “This settlement achieves these goals.”

The case is one of several high-profile legal skirmishes Paxton faces involving allegations of wrongdoing. He remains under indictment for two counts of securities fraud and one count of failing to register as a securities adviser for his business dealings prior to being elected to serve as the state’s top attorney.

While in office, Paxton has cultivated a reputation as a conservative firebrand known for his fierce loyalty to former President Donald Trump. He brought an unsuccessful US Supreme Court case challenging the outcome of the 2020 election, which prompted the Texas State Bar to sue him for professional misconduct.

The case at issue in Friday’s settlement originated in 2020, when a group of top aides accused Paxton of abusing his position by accepting a bribe from a campaign donor in exchange for advancing the donor’s business interests and investigating his adversaries.

FBI Probe

They reported their allegations to state and federal law enforcement authorities, prompting an FBI investigation. No charges have been filed and Paxton has denied wrongdoing.

The former aides filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Paxton later that year, saying they had been fired in retaliation.

Paxton said he hopes the agreement he struck with his former aides will “put this issue to rest.”

Attorneys for all parties asked the Texas Supreme Court to pause consideration of the case while the agreement is finalized, according to the document filed Friday.

The final agreement will include a statement from Paxton saying that he “accepts that plaintiffs acted in a manner that they thought was right and apologizes for referring to them as ‘rogue employees.’” He also agreed to delete the news release from his website that used the ‘rogue’ label.

The settlement is contingent on approval of the funding, which would come from state coffers.

The Texas Supreme Court was considering whether Paxton has immunity under the state’s whistleblower law as an elected official and could therefore stave off the challenge. In October, a state appeals court sided with the whistleblowers.

The proposed settlement agreement would keep that appeals court ruling in place.

The case is Office of the Attorney General v. Brickman, et al, 21-1027, Texas Supreme Court.

(Updates with comment from Paxton, details from agreement)

--With assistance from Susanne Barton.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Madlin Mekelburg in Austin at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou at

Steve Stroth

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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