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Texas Attorney General Paxton agrees to $3.3 million settlement with whistleblowers who accused him of abuse of office and bribery

<i>Joe Raedle/Getty Images</i><br/>Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando
Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando

By Ashley Killough and Ed Lavandera, CNN

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has agreed to a $3.3 million settlement and an apology as part of a tentative settlement with four whistleblowers who publicly accused Paxton of abuse of office, bribery and other criminal offenses in 2020.

The former high-level aides — who also reported their allegations to the FBI — were fired within a month of their denouncement of Paxton, a Republican. They filed a lawsuit seeking reinstatement to their former positions or equivalent positions, as well as reinstatement of lost fringe benefits and seniority rights.

In a filing on Friday, both parties asked the Texas Supreme Court to defer consideration on the case to allow the parties to finalize and fund a settlement agreement.

The filing included the mediated agreement which says that Paxton’s office will pay $3.3 million and that the final settlement will say Paxton accepts that the former aides were acting in a manner they thought was right and apologizes for referring to them as “rogue employees.”

Paxton also agreed to remove the 2020 press release from his office’s website in which he described his aides as “rogue.” The press release has already been removed, and the filing says the settlement is contingent on all necessary approvals for funding.

Despite the apology, the formal settlement agreement does not contain an admission of liability or fault by any party.

In a statement on Friday, Paxton acknowledged the settlement, explaining why he agreed to “put this issue to rest” but did not mention the apology portion of the agreement.

“After over two years of litigating with four ex-staffers who accused me in October 2020 of ‘potential’ wrongdoing, I have reached a settlement agreement to put this issue to rest. I have chosen this path to save taxpayer dollars and ensure my third term as Attorney General is unburdened by unnecessary distractions. This settlement achieves these goals. I look forward to serving the People of Texas for the next four years free from this unfortunate sideshow.”

Lawyers for three of the plaintiffs also issued a statement to CNN, saying: “Our clients have spent more than two years fighting for what is right. We believe the terms of the settlement speak for themselves.”

Former Texas deputy attorneys general James Blake Brickman, Mark Penley, and Ryan Vassar — along with former director of law enforcement David Maxwell — were the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

CNN has previously reported that Paxton is facing an FBI investigation for abuse of office. He is also under indictment for securities fraud in a separate, unrelated case. Paxton has denied all charges and allegations.

The former senior staff members largely stayed out of the limelight after filing the suit, but they broke their silence early last year ahead of the GOP primary, when Paxton was seeking the Republican nomination to be reelected as attorney general. They issued a statement responding to public comments that Paxton had made about the lawsuit during his reelection campaign.

Paxton was reelected as attorney general in November.

This headline has been updated.

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