Texas laws protecting whistleblowers don’t apply to Attorney General Ken Paxton, his agency argues in bid to quash lawsuit

Texas laws protecting whistleblowers don’t apply to Attorney General Ken Paxton, his agency argues in bid to quash lawsuit

The Texas Lawyer Basic’s Workplace is trying to struggle off efforts by 4 former aides to take depositions and situation subpoenas of their lawsuit claiming they had been illegally fired after telling authorities they believed Lawyer Basic Ken Paxton was breaking the legislation.

The company is arguing that Paxton is “not a public worker” and thus the workplace can’t be sued below the Texas Whistleblower Act, which goals to guard authorities staff from retaliation after they report superiors for breaking the legislation.

4 former Paxton aides declare they had been fired in retaliation for telling authorities they believed Paxton had finished unlawful favors for a political donor, Austin actual property investor Nate Paul. The whistleblowers’ allegations have reportedly sparked an FBI investigation.

In searching for reinstatement and different monetary damages, the whistleblowers wish to query Paxton himself below oath, in addition to Brent Webster, his prime deputy on the legal professional common’s workplace, and Brandon Cammack, a Houston lawyer Paxton employed to analyze complaints made by Paul in what aides say was a favor to the donor. In addition they issued subpoenas to Paul’s firm and a lady alleged to have been Paxton’s mistress.

The connection between Paul and Paxton is pleasant however stays murky. Paul revealed in a deposition final yr that he had employed a lady at Paxton’s suggestion however not as a favor to him. The lady had a romantic relationship with Paxton, based on two individuals who mentioned Paxton advised them of the affair in 2018.

Now, the company is asking a Travis County decide to quash subpoenas to the girl and World Class Capital Group, which Paul leads, in addition to to fend off the depositions the whistleblowers are searching for.

Spokespeople for Paxton haven’t responded to questions in regards to the lady, and have claimed the aides weren’t fired out of retaliation.

“OAG is doing every little thing it could to maintain the general public at nighttime and forestall Ken Paxton from testifying below oath,” mentioned TJ Turner and Tom Nesbitt, attorneys for one of many whistleblowers. “However it’s worse than that. They aren’t simply asking the courtroom to ban discovery from the workplace and Ken Paxton. OAG can also be asking the courtroom to ban discovery from World Class and different third events, regardless that the legal professional who represents them each agreed to cooperate within the discovery course of.”

To defend the company, taxpayers are paying legal professional William Helfand $540 an hour, and $350 and $215 hourly, respectively, to a junior legal professional and paralegal, their contract exhibits.

The whistleblowers sought to query Paxton, Webster and Cammack below oath as quickly as subsequent week. Michael Wynne, an legal professional for Paul, accepted the subpoenas for each World Class and the girl, courtroom paperwork present. She couldn’t be reached for remark and Wynne didn’t return a request for remark.

However in a submitting final week, the legal professional common’s workplace requested the decide to quash the depositions and the subpoenas, and forestall the whistleblowers from conducting any discovery.

“The OAG is doing every little thing they will muster to keep away from having Ken Paxton reply fundamental questions below oath in regards to the info,” mentioned Carlos Soltero, an legal professional for one of many whistleblowers.

As an alternative, the company mentioned, the Travis County decide ought to dismiss the case fully on procedural grounds.

The Texas Whistleblower Act — the idea for the lawsuit — is designed to supply safety for public workers who, in good religion, inform authorities they consider their superiors are breaking the legislation. However the legal professional common’s workplace claims the company can’t be sued below the legislation as a result of Paxton is an elected official.

“The Lawyer Basic is neither a governmental entity nor a public worker and, thus, the Whistleblower Act doesn’t prolong safety to studies of illegal conduct made towards the Lawyer Basic personally,” the company argued. “The Act doesn’t apply… for studies made about actions taken personally by the elected Lawyer Basic.”

Evaluating Paxton’s authority to that of the president of the USA, the company claimed that the legal professional common had the precise to fireplace the staff, regardless of their claims of retaliation.

Underneath that principle, “he’s saying that elected officers aren’t accountable” for violating the Whistleblower Act, mentioned Jason Smith, a North Texas employment legal professional who has dealt with whistleblower circumstances.

“It seems that Basic Paxton is making an attempt to get off on a technicality that does not exist,” he added.

Turner and Nesbitt, attorneys for one of many whistleblowers, additionally slammed the company for making an attempt to have the case tossed, saying “not content material with merely breaking the legislation, now Lawyer Basic Ken Paxton argues he’s above it.”

“The Workplace of the Lawyer Basic claims that Paxton is to this point above the legislation that he has a constitutional proper to demand that his most senior workers assist his illegal conduct, and that he can hearth and slander with impunity any worker who doesn’t. That is shameful,” they added. The movement is “frivolous” and solely designed to delay the case, they claimed.

Spokespeople and attorneys for the legal professional common’s workplace didn’t return requests for remark.

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