The Texas lawyer common’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 Legal professional Basic Ken Paxton was breaking the regulation.
The company is arguing that Paxton is “not a public worker,” and thus the workplace can’t be sued underneath the Texas Whistleblower Act, which goals to guard authorities staff from retaliation after they report superiors for breaking the regulation.
4 former Paxton aides declare they had been fired in retaliation for telling authorities they believed Paxton had carried out unlawful favors for a political donor, Austin actual property investor Nate Paul. The whistleblowers’ allegations have reportedly sparked an FBI investigation.
In in search of reinstatement and different monetary damages, the whistleblowers wish to query Paxton underneath oath, in addition to Brent Webster, his high deputy on the lawyer common’s workplace, and Brandon Cammack, a Houston lawyer Paxton employed to research complaints made by Paul in what aides say was a favor to the donor. Additionally they issued subpoenas to Paul’s firm and a girl 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 girl at Paxton’s advice however not as a favor to him. The lady had a romantic relationship with Paxton, in accordance with two individuals who stated Paxton instructed them of the affair in 2018.
Now, the company is asking a Travis County choose to quash subpoenas to the lady and World Class Capital Group, which Paul leads, in addition to to fend off the depositions the whistleblowers are in search of.
Spokespeople for Paxton haven’t responded to questions concerning the girl and have claimed the aides weren’t fired out of retaliation.
“OAG [Office of the Attorney General] is doing the whole lot it could to maintain the general public at midnight and forestall Ken Paxton from testifying underneath oath,” stated 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 be asking the courtroom to ban discovery from World Class and different third events, regardless that the lawyer who represents them each agreed to cooperate within the discovery course of.”
To defend the company, taxpayers are paying lawyer William Helfand $540 an hour, and $350 and $215 hourly, respectively, to a junior lawyer and paralegal, their contract exhibits.
The whistleblowers sought to query Paxton, Webster and Cammack underneath oath as quickly as subsequent week. Michael Wynne, an lawyer for Paul, accepted the subpoenas for each World Class and the lady, 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 lawyer common’s workplace requested the choose to quash the depositions and the subpoenas, and forestall the whistleblowers from conducting any discovery.
“The OAG is doing the whole lot they’ll muster to keep away from having Ken Paxton reply fundamental questions underneath oath concerning the details,” stated Carlos Soltero, an lawyer for one of many whistleblowers.
As a substitute, the company stated, the Travis County choose ought to dismiss the case solely 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 regulation. However the lawyer common’s workplace claims the company can’t be sued underneath the regulation as a result of Paxton is an elected official.
“The Legal professional Basic is neither a governmental entity nor a public worker and, thus, the Whistleblower Act doesn’t prolong safety to reviews of illegal conduct made in opposition to the Legal professional Basic personally,” the company argued. “The Act doesn’t apply … for reviews made about actions taken personally by the elected Legal professional Basic.”
Evaluating Paxton’s authority to that of the president of the US, the company claimed that the lawyer common had the precise to fireplace the workers, regardless of their claims of retaliation.
Beneath that concept, “he’s saying that elected officers aren’t accountable” for violating the Whistleblower Act, stated Jason Smith, a North Texas employment lawyer who has dealt with whistleblower circumstances.
“It seems that [Attorney] Basic Paxton is making an attempt to get off on a technicality that doesn’t 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 regulation, now Legal professional Basic Ken Paxton argues he’s above it.”
“The Workplace of the Legal professional Basic claims that Paxton is to date above the regulation that he has a constitutional proper to demand that his most senior workers help 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 lawyer common’s workplace didn’t return requests for remark.