AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Thursday the Texas Third Court of Appeals ruled in favor of former employees of the Office of the Attorney General, who were fired after blowing the whistle on Attorney General Ken Paxton for alleged corruption.
The panel of judges ruled that the Texas Whistleblower Act protects those employees’ action, reaffirming a lower court’s denial of Paxton’s motion to dismiss the case. In the opinion, presiding Judge Amy Clark Meachum wrote Paxton’s appeal of that decision “implicates the State’s fundamental policies of governmental transparency and accountability.”
During the hearing in the appellate court on Sept. 22, state attorneys representing Paxton argued the Whistleblower Act does not apply to elected officials. Meachum wrote the interpretation of the law would “have the effect of stripping whistleblower protections from employees who might report misconduct by the thousands of elected officials throughout the State—particularly by those who direct and lead the agencies of this State.”
In late Sept. of 2020, former high-ranking OAG employees — James Blake Brickman, J. Mark Penley, David Maxwell and Ryan M. Vassar — made reports to federal and state law enforcement agencies with allegations that Paxton was engaging in corruption. According to legal documents, those allegations include bribery, tampering with a governmental record, abuse of official capacity, bank fraud, obstruction of criminal investigations, tampering with a witness, money laundering and more.
The four employees notified the OAG of their reports on Oct. 1, 2020 and were all fired by mid-Nov.
Paxton claims the allegations brought forth by his former employees are false, and the employees left or were terminated for reasons unrelated to him.