We posted an October 20, 2020 piece calling for the resignation of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. We said the attorney general “is not morally, ethically, or legally fit to hold public office in the Lone Star State. He is a criminal wrongdoer whose own staff is horrified at having to serve with and under him.”
Three days later (October 23), in a Texas Tribune article, Emma Playoff reported that “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office has sidelined four of the seven senior aides who weeks ago told law enforcement they believed Paxton had committed bribery and abuse of office – firing two and placing two more on leave – in what employment attorneys say looks like a clear act of retaliation against legally protected whistleblowers.”
This latest assault by Paxton on the rule of law does not surprise us. It is the measure of a man, a public office holder, who believes his office’s power permits him to do as he pleases with total disregard for the rule of law.
Paxton Retaliates Against Whistleblowers
The two fired employees are Blake Brickman and Lacey Mase, and the two employees placed on what the attorney general’s office calls “investigative leave” are Mark Penley and Ryan Vassar. One of Paxton’s top deputies, Jeff Mateer, did not wait for the retaliation ax to fall. He resigned several weeks ago after accusing his boss of what Playoff described as Paxton “running afoul of the law.” Attorney General spokesperson, Ian Prior, was quoted by the Tribune as saying about the actions taken against the four whistleblowers:
“Any suggestion that this has to do with the whistleblower claims is false and demonstrates unfamiliarity with the facts. There are a number of reasons for these separations that we cannot discuss at this time.”
Playoff also pointed to another Paxton employee, Director of Law Enforcement David Maxwell, who did not join the initial group of six who rebelled against the attorney general’s criminal wrongdoing. Regardless, Maxwell was placed on leave after incurring the attorney general’s ire for being a collaborator in the rebellion.
AG Describes Senior Aides as Rogue Employees
Attorney General Paxton has decided to follow President Trump’s playbook in dealing with “whistleblowers.” He has called them “rogue employees” who are the criminal wrongdoers themselves and, therefore, must be the subject of criminal investigations. Like Trump, Paxton believes that anyone who reports governmental wrongdoing is “criminal,” not responsible civil servants as most rational people view them.
The state of Texas has a Whistleblowers Protection Act that creates a presumption of retaliation if an employee is terminated from the workforce within 90 days of filing the whistleblower complaint. The Attorney General’s website features a page supporting the protections given to whistleblowers in the state. All the individuals involved in the office rebellion fall within the parameters of this Act.
Unlawful Retaliation Against Whistleblowers
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is a criminal wrongdoer. He has once again undertaken unlawful actions by retaliating against honest government employees who have reported his criminal wrongdoing to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. The Attorney General will not resign despite repeated calls for him to do so made by people across all legal and political spectrums.
AG Paxton Needs to Be Impeached
Thus, it is time for the Texas House of Representatives, under Article 15 of the Texas Constitution, to initiate impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Paxton. The attorney general has moved from being a “political embarrassment” to a “threat” to the rule of law in this state as demanded by the Texas Constitution—laws the attorney general himself was sworn to protect but who has violated at every turn.
The State of Texas can no longer tolerate a rogue criminal wrongdoer as its chief law enforcement officer. Attorney General Paxton’s consistent criminal behavior not only undermines the integrity of his office but places everyone the attorney general perceives as a “political enemy” at personal and professional risk.
The Republican-led House of Representatives must now take the necessary legal steps to remove one of their party officeholders from office as the Texas Constitution demands.
As we have said, and repeat here, Ken Paxton is not morally, ethically, or legally fit to hold any public office in the Lone Star State, much less that of the state’s chief law enforcement officer.