In November 2020, four whistleblowers filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General (AG) Ken Paxton alleging that he had engaged in whistleblower retaliation and misconduct. The four former staffers have added on to their original whistleblower lawsuit and allege further misconduct in relation to Paxton’s friend and campaign donor Nate Paul, according to a February 12 article from the Austin-American Statesman.
On February 12, the whistleblowers amended their original lawsuit against Paxton to include new allegations. According to the Austin-American Statesman, the whistleblowers claim in the amended lawsuit that “they have ‘information suggesting that Nate Paul, either personally or through a construction company he owns and controls, was involved’ in a major renovation project in 2020 at Paxton’s million-dollar home.” These alleged actions serve as another example of claims that Paxton has engaged in misconduct and illegal treatment with Paul, who donated $25,000 to the Paxton campaign in October 2018.
The whistleblowers support the claim about Paxton’s renovation project by “noting that a search of government offices found no permits issued for the work.” In a further development, the Associated Press reported on February 12 that the FBI “is investigating renovations” Paxton made to his home. According to the article, “[a]t least one Austin contractor recently received a federal grand jury subpoena for records related to work on Paxton’s home.” The subpoena “calls on the contractor to testify before a grand jury” and requires them to provide documents related to their work on Paxton’s home.
The revised whistleblower lawsuit also alleges that “Paxton has personal and financial ties to Paul ‘through an individual with whom Ken Paxton carried on an extramarital affair and who now works for Nate Paul on Ken Paxton’s recommendation,’” according to the Austin-American Statesman. Additionally, they allege that the woman involved in the affair “remains employed by a Paul company as a construction project manager ‘even though that individual has no prior experience in the construction industry.’”
New allegations in the whistleblower lawsuit also include claims that expand on allegations from the original lawsuit: the whistleblowers maintain that Paxton engaged in “intense and bizarre” actions to provide help to Paul, according to the article. One claim alleges that Paxton intervened “in an open records decision to help Paul gain documents about the federal search of his home and businesses.” Additionally, the updated lawsuit includes more information on how “top Paxton lieutenants approached the FBI with their suspicions after comparing notes in late September” and deeming his alleged actions as “sweeping.”
Overall, the new claims allege that Paxton undertook several actions as AG to repay Paul for the campaign donations, helping with the home renovation, and involvement in some way with Paxton’s mistress.
The Original Whistleblower Lawsuit
The four whistleblowers who filed the initial lawsuit are Mark Penley, the former deputy attorney general for criminal justice, David Maxwell, former director of law enforcement, Blake Brickman, former deputy attorney general for policy and strategy initiatives, and Ryan Vassar, who was put on paid leave weeks before the group filed the lawsuit.
The original lawsuit alleges that Paxton engaged in misconduct involving Paul. One claim alleges that Paxton would use the agency to conduct favors for Paul, which the suit alleges was an abuse of office. The whistleblower lawsuit also alleges that the whistleblowers were retaliated against after reporting Paxton to law enforcement in early October of 2020, according to previous WNN reporting. Allegedly, the whistleblower retaliation took the form of armed guards escorting one whistleblower to his workspace and Paxton’s new deputy interrogating the whistleblowers, among other claims.
At this juncture, Paxton’s political spokesman Ian Prior has disputed the claims. “Any accusations that the attorney general acted contrary to the law are completely false and they will be proven false in court,” Prior said.