Texas AG Ken Paxton agrees to pay $3.3M lawsuit settlement with taxpayer money

Texas taxpayers are likely going to pick up the tab for Attorney General Ken Paxton's $3.3 million whistleblower lawsuit with several former employees. 

Former employees filed a lawsuit claiming he was abusing his office. Paxton, in his turn, told lawmakers on Tuesday, paying the settlement is the best deal for the state.

Travis County GOP chairman Matt Mackowiak and Democratic analyst Ed Espinosa joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.

RELATED: Texas AG settles with former aides who reported him to FBI

MIKE WARREN: Matt, Speaker Dave Phelan said he didn't like the idea of taxpayers picking up the bill here, but it's a deal the former employees want passed as well, correct?

MATT MACKOWIAK: It is. And this is protected under the Texas Whistleblower Act. And the law requires not that any individual state employee be sued personally, but that the agency could be sued. And so, you know, the legislature has really two choices. You know, allow taxpayer funding to close, close up the settlement or to reject the settlement. There is no way to force an individual state employee to pay their own funds or pay campaign funds to settle any kind of settlement. So I understand some of the frustration here. And in the AG defense, I do think it is less costly to taxpayers to have to settle this at that level than to continue with the lawsuit being pursued at the local level. And then presumably being appealed to the appellate court and then to the state Supreme Court. 

MIKE WARREN: Ed Espinoza, the law is the law, but is it fair for this cost to be passed on to taxpayers? 

ED ESPINOZA: Well, I don't think anybody likes the idea of taxpayers having to pay for the wrongdoings of an elected official. And really what this comes down to is should the elected official had done this, the court or the settlement basically said that, no, he shouldn't have done it, which, by the way, let's talk about what he had done. He was offering political favors. This is Attorney General Ken Paxton, offering political favors to a real estate developer in exchange for political contributions. Ken Paxton's staff blew the whistle on this. It became an FBI investigation. Now we have a settlement of $3 million. I can understand why the legislature doesn't want to pay it, why taxpayers don't want to see this money go this way. But that is the law. And the whistleblowers who brought this to the attention of the authorities who have were since fired do deserve some justice here. So if we're going to have a whistleblower act with some teeth in it that has some sort of standing for people to want to blow the whistle in the future, we should pay it. 

MIKE WARREN: Matt, do you think Paxton has some legal concerns going forward?

MATT MACKOWIAK: Well, he has, I guess, due to unresolved issues. The first is the securities fraud indictment, which has still not really seen the light of day. That continues in some state of limbo now, four or five years running. Second, is this issue related to the donor? And there's been a lot of smoke, but really no charge at this point, although the Department of Justice, I believe, is now overtaking that investigation. So, you know, he's got those issues to deal with. Of course, you know, a lot of these issues were litigated, both the Republican primaries, last primary runoff and then the general election. And Ken Paxton won an overwhelming reelection by 12%. So he's now focused on doing his day job, on fighting for Texans rights, on running the largest law firm that fights on behalf of taxpayers on a daily basis in the state. And that's what he's focused on.

MIKE WARREN: Ed, the Department of Justice said last week they were looking into the Paxton abuse of office case. Do you think anything comes from that?

ED ESPINOZA: Well, there's a lot for them to dig through. And Matt just mentioned a lot of what those things are. Look, I think that whether it's the DOJ or the Republican speaker of the legislature or the voters, everybody's tired of Ken Paxton's act, his antics and his malfeasance. And I think that this is just look, it's very frustrating to have to go through these issues when your state's top law enforcement official is the subject of so many legal investigations. I wish there was something we could do about it right away.

MIKE WARREN: All right. Well, never a dull moment with the AG. We got to wrap it. Matt, Ed, thank you both very much.