One of the Texas attorney general’s staff members said that the state has already spent almost $600,000 defending Paxton. The worker admitted that if the state went to court and lost, it might have to pay even more.
The Texas Office of the Attorney General hinted on Tuesday that it’s unlikely that Ken Paxton will have to pay out of pocket for a $3.3 million settlement. This could mean that taxpayers would have to pay the millions of dollars for him.
“Under the [Texas] Whistleblower Act, the agency, the Office of the Attorney General, is the proper defendant,” Chris Hilton, chief of the agency’s general litigation division, told lawmakers. “Because the agency is a defendant, that money needs to be specifically appropriated by the Legislature.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2020 under the Texas Whistleblower Act. The settlement is for a lot of money. Four of Paxton’s top deputies said that he used his position to help political donors and one of his friends.
Paxton did not say that he did anything wrong in the recent settlement agreement. Instead, his lawyers said, “Paxton accepts that plaintiffs acted in a manner that they thought was right and apologizes for referring to them as ‘rogue employees.’”
Tuesday, Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, who is the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, asked what would happen if the Legislature decided not to pay for the settlement. Hilton said that the settlement was “in the best interest of the state,” but the state decided not to pay for it. Hilton said that the settlement is “in the best interest of the state.”
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“The agreement itself is contingent on legislative funding,” he said. “It’s a settlement that we made in order to save money for the state of Texas — It was the prudent thing to do to minimize litigation risk.” Hilton also said that the state has already spent almost $600,000 on defending the case, and if they went to court and lost, they might have to pay more than the $3.3 million that was agreed upon in the settlement.
When asked if the money can come from Paxton’s campaign account, Hilton said, “There is no whistleblower case where an individual has paid anything because the individual is not liable under the statute.”
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It seems like it might be hard for Paxton to get the money for the settlement. Recently, House Speaker Dade Phelan told CBS Dallas that Paxton will have to persuade House members to pay for it.
“He’s going to have to appear before the appropriations committee and make a case to that committee as to why that is a proper use of taxpayer dollars,” Phelan told the news outlet. “He’s going to have to sell it to 76 members of the Texas House.” Phelan said that he doesn’t agree with paying for the settlement with money from taxpayers.
Also, Gov. Greg Abbott told The Texas Tribune last week, “This is something that the attorney general will have to fully explain to both the House and the Senate.” But the lawyers for the whistleblowers say they are worried about lawmakers who don’t want to pay for the settlement.
According to The Tribune, the lawyers for the four former employees said, “State employees can’t be expected to report government corruption in the future if they know the Legislature won’t back their rights under the law it passed to protect them.”