The Texas attorney general’s office attempted an end-run around a ruling from the state’s top accountant to pay Attorney General Ken Paxton despite his impeachment, documents indicated.
Paxton has remained suspended from duty since the House overwhelmingly voted to impeach him on May 27 after accusations of wrongdoing.
Communications obtained through open records requests revealed a conflict between his agency and the comptroller’s office regarding Paxton’s salary.
“Simply put, it is unclear that the CPA has authority to withhold AG Paxton’s salary under these circumstances,” Lesley French, office chief of staff wrote in an email to the director of the comptroller’s fiscal management division on Wednesday.
The Dallas Morning News previously reported that the attorney general’s office sought Paxton’s salary for June — roughly $12,800, but it was unclear then if the request was intentional.
The emails showed intention and revealed a conflict between the two agencies with officials in Paxton’s office insisting that the Texas Constitution merely required his suspension but was silent on the issue of his pay.
Officials in the comptroller’s office, which has the oversight of the state’s pocketbook, maintained that it has authority over the state’s financial matters, including Paxton’s pay, and noted that the Legislature only appropriated money for one attorney general.
“The General Appropriations Act provides funding to the OAG to pay one exempt position, titled Attorney General, at a rate of $153,750 annually. There is no authority or funding for your agency to pay both Provisional Attorney General (John) Scott and Attorney General Paxton simultaneously,” Rob Coleman, director of the comptroller’s fiscal management division, said in a reply to French.
Despite a ruling from Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar that Paxton cannot be paid while he awaits his impeachment trial, the attorney general’s chief of staff sought his paycheck for the month of June.
The pay request prompted the comptroller’s office to briefly “hold” the entire payroll for the attorney general office’s 4,200 employees. Emails show French appeared to interpret that move as a means to force the office to amend their pay request, which it did.
“While we believes (sic) AG Paxton is entitled to his salary pending the outcome of the Senate trial, the OAG would like continue (sic) to pay its employees for the month of June,” French wrote, adding that a supplemental pay request for Paxton’s salary alone would be submitted.
Coleman replied that any additional attempts to pay Paxton would not be successful.
“Our office is prepared to work with you to ensure staff at the OAG receive their timely and accurate salaries,” he wrote. “However, any further submission of a salary payment for Attorney General Paxton, while he is in a suspended status, will be held and not processed through our statewide systems using state appropriated funds.”
It was unclear if the office of the attorney general has any avenues to appealing the comptroller’s ruling on Paxton’s pay.
You almost, almost, have to admire the sheer gall of the request. Almost, but nah. Screw him. I don’t feel the need to analyze this any further than that. Reform Austin has more.