AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas House lawmakers tasked with investigating legal and ethical violations announced Tuesday they are investigating the Office of the Attorney General.
The House General Investigating Committee has been investigating Attorney General Ken Paxton’s legal settlement with whistleblowers since March.
Early this legislative session, Paxton requested the legislature approve $3.3 million of state money so his office could pay a settlement to employees that were terminated after they raised ethical concerns about Paxton’s conduct.
Four former top aides sued Paxton for wrongful firing and retaliation after they accused him of using his office to help Nate Paul, an Austin-area real estate developer and Paxton campaign donor.
In a public hearing Tuesday afternoon, the committee issued a letter directing the attorney general to preserve all documentation relating to the matter.
“Please immediately suspend all of your destruction policies for all documents… relating the above cited case and any related litigation,” General Investigating Chairman Andrew Murr wrote. “As part of any future investigation by the committee, you may be requested to produce responsive documents.”
The committee issued a subpoena to the Office of the Attorney General and to a “John Doe #6,” mandating they provide relevant testimony and information regarding their inquiry.
Just minutes before the committee convened, Attorney General Paxton made an unprecedented call on House Speaker Dade Phelan to resign for unrelated concerns.
“Texans were dismayed to witness his performance presiding over the Texas House in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication,” Paxton wrote on Twitter. “His failures as Speaker have created a credibility crisis for all Republican candidates and for our entire Party.”
The attorney general referenced a viral video in which Speaker Phelan appears to be impaired while conducting House business late Saturday night. He also referenced frustrations among the most conservative wing of their shared party that some Republican legislation has failed to make key deadlines in the House.
The speaker’s office characterized Paxton’s calls as a politically-motivated distraction from the House’s investigation.
“The motives for and timing behind Paxton’s statement today couldn’t be more evident,” the Speaker’s Communications Director Cait Wittman said. “Mr. Paxton’s statement today amounts to little more than a last ditch effort to save face.”
Speaker Phelan and Attorney General Paxton have been at odds over whether the legislature should approve his settlement fees all session.
“He’s going to have to appear before the appropriations committee and make a case to that committee as to why that is a proper use of taxpayer dollars,” Phelan said in February. “That is his job, not mine.”
The General Investigating Committee will hold a public hearing and hear evidence on the matter on Wednesday at 8 a.m.