OAG, Whistleblowers Enter Settlement Talks

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton | Image by NBC DFW

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and several former employees have begun settlement talks after several years of an ongoing wrongful termination suit.

The legal battle began after several members of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleged that Paxton was improperly using his position to gain benefits.

Several high-ranking members of the OAG staff claimed “that Paxton was breaking the law and abusing his office to benefit himself as well as his close friend and campaign donor, Austin businessman Nate Paul, and likely the woman with whom, according to media reports, Paxton has carried on a lengthy extramarital affair.”

The group filed a report to law enforcement outlining the allegations. These “whistleblowers” were then allegedly threatened, fired, and otherwise retaliated against by Paxton and the OAG.

Claiming protection from reprisals under the Texas Whistleblower Act, several of the former employees sued in 2020. Paxton denied all wrongdoing and asked for the suit to be dismissed.

However, a ruling from the Third District Texas Court of Appeals in 2021 rejected the motion to dismiss, allowing the case to proceed. Paxton then appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court, which is currently weighing the matter.

In the recent joint motion, Paxton and three of the alleged whistleblowers — J. Mark Penley, David Maxwell, and Ryan Vassar — asked the court to temporarily defer judgment on the case as the parties had entered into “settlement negotiations.”

“Petitioners and three of the four respondents are actively engaged in settlement discussions,” the joint motion detailed. “The parties therefore respectfully ask this Court to abate consideration of the petition until February 9, 2023.”

The settlement negotiations were originally scheduled for February 1, 2023, but it is unknown if they were rescheduled due to the inclement weather affecting the state.

The fourth accessor, James Blake Brickman, has refused to enter into settlement talks and instead filed a response to the joint motion asking the court to deny abating judgment.

“There is no basis for abating this case,” Brickman’s response claimed. “Brickman is not engaged in any settlement negotiations with OAG and is not participating in a mediation.”

“Thus, even if the other parties reach settlement,” the motion continued, “Brickman’s claim will remain in need of adjudication.”

Despite the allegation and the ongoing litigation, Paxton has maintained support among Texans, winning re-election to a third term by roughly 12 percentage points in 2022.

Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Texas Republican Party, stated in an email to The Dallas Express, “Ken Paxton has been a leader for Texas and the nation.

“Paxton has not only defended Texas against Biden’s attacks, he’s gone on offense, fighting Covid shutdowns and mask mandates, human trafficking, sanctuary cities, and big tech censorship,” Rinaldi continued. “We are grateful to have him as our Attorney General.”

The Dallas Express reached out to the Office of the Attorney General for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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