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The Texas attorney general sacked the last remaining whistleblower who alleged Ken Paxton broke the law by doing a favor to a political donor – just days after aides sued the agency for retaliating for creating the Report suffered.
Assistant Attorney General for Legal Services Ryan Vassar, who had already taken paid leave, was fired on Nov. 17, according to internal identification documents from The Texas Tribune. That made him the fifth whistleblower to be fired from the agency in less than a month. The other three who reported Paxton to law enforcement have resigned.
On November 12, Vassar and three of his former colleagues filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Texas Attorney General alleging they suffered retaliation after telling law enforcement that Paxton had broken the law by using the agency to do so had to serve the interests of a politician donor and friend Nate Paul.
Joseph Knight, Vassar’s attorney in the lawsuit, said the reason Vassar gave for his termination was “made up, nonsensical reasons” – and he believed the dismissal was an act of retaliation. Vassar was hired by the agency in 2015.
Neither the Attorney General’s office nor Ian Prior, a Paxton political spokesman, returned requests for comment on why Vassar was fired, although Prior said previous dismissals were not retaliatory but related to policy violations.
The FBI is investigating Paxton over allegations made by the eight whistleblowers, all of whom were senior aides, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.
Paxton dismissed the whistleblowers as “rogue employees” and labeled their allegations “false”.
According to the lawsuit he and three other top aides filed, Vassar was tapped by Paxton to do Paul a favor. One such case came when Paxton asked members of his executive staff to forward documents to Paul’s administration that should not have been disclosed, the aides allege in their lawsuit.
“Paxton directed Vassar to find a way to release the information. Vassar struggled with this policy because disclosing the information Paul requested would turn the decades-long expectations of sister law enforcement agencies on its head [office of the attorney general]Their own law enforcement intelligence and likely countless lawsuits challenging the newly announced application of the law, ”the lawsuit reads.
Then Paxton “took the file personally” – including documents sealed by a federal court – and “didn’t return it for about seven to ten days,” the lawsuit said.
In a statement earlier this month, Paxton said the aide’s “allegations are exaggerated on the basis of assumptions and largely misrepresent the facts.”
“Unfortunately, these lawyers have decided to take their complaints through the media and through the courts,” said Paxton. “We will be fully prepared to address these allegations through the judicial system if necessary.”
The open records incident is just one example of how Paxton used the agency to serve Paul’s interests.
The full scope of Paxton and Paul’s relationship remains unclear, but the two saw each other socially at times, and Paul gave Paxton’s campaign $ 25,000 in 2018. Paul also revealed in an independent statement that he hired a woman on Paxton’s recommendation, though he said it was no favor for the Attorney General. The woman he hired had been in a romantic relationship with Paxton, according to two people who learned of the affair from Paxton in 2018.
The agency took the highly unusual step of intervening in a lawsuit between Paul and a local charity, and according to aides, Paxton urged its staff to prepare a legal opinion that would help Paul prevent foreclosure sales on several of his properties.
Most noticeably, however, Paxton appointed an outside attorney to investigate complaints from Paul who alleged he was ill-treated by numerous state and federal agencies when his house and office were raided by the FBI in 2019. Top aides said they found Paul’s complaint with no merit, but Paxton appeared unhappy with their investigation and hired a Houston attorney with five years legal experience to investigate the claims.
Vassar played a role as a senior advisor in communications with attorney Brandon Cammack, including drawing up a contract for him, on instructions from Paxton, the lawsuit states.