Tag Archives: Ken Paxton

AG’s case takes interesting turn

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s journey through the state’s judicial system has taken another interesting turn.

The 5th Court of Appeals, based in Dallas, has rejected Paxton’s request that the securities fraud case against him be tossed out. According to the appellate court, the case should go to trial and Paxton should have to make the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he broke securities law by failing to properly report income he received while providing financial advice to clients.

Paxton has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought by — get this — a Collin County grand jury, which happens to be in Paxton’s home county.

This case ought to be settled by a trial court.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/06/01/appeals-court-upholds-fraud-charges-against-paxton/

What’s next? Paxton’s legal team is considering whether to take it to the state’s highest criminal appellate court, the Court of Criminal Appeals. The special prosecutor’s office assigned to this case said it is confident the CCA will uphold the lower court ruling against the AG.

I understand fully that Paxton is “innocent until proven guilty.” He has tried all along the way to get the case thrown out. The courts have ruled repeatedly against him, saying the charges against him have merit.

Will the Republican AG prevail if he takes it to the all-GOP Court of Criminal Appeals? That might be his best shot at getting it thrown out.

The Texas Tribune reported: “During a hearing before the court last month, Paxton’s lawyers most prominently argued that the grand jury that indicted him was improperly selected. The court rejected that argument in its ruling Wednesday.

“‘After reviewing the record and, in particular, the process used by the district judge, we conclude the complained-of method of selecting the grand jury is not a complaint that would render the grand jury illegally formed,’ Chief Justice Carolyn Wright wrote.”

The way I look at it, if he’s innocent of the charges brought against him by the grand jury — and by the complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission — then he ought to make the case in court.

Make the state prove its case and let a jury of his peers decide.

 

Governor, comptroller right to end ‘severance pay’

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Why did it take a controversy to get the Texas governor and the state comptroller of public accounts to do the right thing?

Gov. Greg Abbott and Comptroller Glenn Hegar have ordered state agencies to end the practice of granting what’s been called “emergency leave” pay for public employees who left their public-sector jobs.

Let’s call it what it was: severance pay.

Someone leaves public employment voluntarily and then collects pay even though he or she is no longer on the job?

Ridiculous!

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/06/01/governor-comptroller-orders-agencies-stop-pay-depa/

The issue blew up when Attorney General Ken Paxton — the guy who’s got his own share of legal difficulties with which he must contend — paid two former top assistants after they had left the AG’s office. It turns out that the General Land Office did the same thing.

Abbott and Hegar’s directive stipulates that it will remain in effect until the Legislature decides how to handle it.

Here’s an idea for legislators to heed: Ban it forthwith. Make it illegal to pay these kinds of severance packages to public employees who resign their jobs voluntarily.

I trust we’re clear on that.

 

Irony in all these lawsuits

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There’s a certain sort of irony one can find in this story from the Texas Tribune.

Texas’s Republican political leaders have made it a point of pride that they have sued the federal government 40 times since 2009, the year President Barack Obama took office.

The state’s two most recent attorneys general — Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton — have had mixed results from all those suits.

Hey, man, they’re still glad to sue the daylights out of the president and the government over which he presides.

Their cause? The government is overreaching, seeking to usurp authority set aside for the states — allegedly.

The irony? Well, I recall many Republican candidates for public office contending that they wanted to stem the flood of lawsuits. They would argue that many of them are frivolous and that the courts couldn’t afford the escalating costs of litigation. I won’t argue that the suits are “frivolous,” as I am not a legal scholar.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/05/26/texas-vs-federal-government/

The link attached to this post itemizes the costs of the suits. Add  them up. They have cost the state — that’s you and me, folks — a good chunk of money over the past eight years.

This is a point of pride with these fellows?

Severance pay for state employees?

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No doubt you’ve heard it said that “we ought to run government like a business.”

Most of the time, that’s merely a clichĂ© that doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.

Then again, you get an exception to the rule. Take the case of state agencies paying what amounts to “severance pay” to public employees who resign their public jobs.

As the Texas Tribune reports, the practice in Texas is likely to vanish during the next legislative session … as it should.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/05/27/analysis-expense-texas-taxpayers-carries-no-explan/

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office has paid such severance to several former staffers. Paxton doesn’t call it “severance.” He calls it “emergency leave” pay.

What the bleep is the difference?

This is outrageous. It ought to stop. It’s a waste of valuable public money that the state keeps harping about that it doesn’t have.

I happen to know a bit about how private business handles these issues. It’s a whole lot less generous — in a case with which I am intimately familiar — than it is in the public sector.

In August 2012 I received some shattering news from a hired gun brought in to manage the “reorganization” of the newspaper where I was working at the time. We were told we could apply for any job we wanted. I chose to apply for the job I’d been doing at the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 years; I thought I was doing a pretty good job.

Not long after being interviewed twice by the management team at the newspaper, the hired gun called me into his office and said:  “There’s no easy way to say this, but we’ve decided to give your job to someone else.” The “someone else” also had applied for the same position, so my employer went with him. I was out.

I chose to resign on the spot rather than apply for another position and face the remote possibility of getting hired for that. I was qualified to do one thing at the newspaper, but I didn’t do it well enough to suit my employer.

During what amounted to an exit interview the next morning with my soon-to-be former boss, I asked about a severance. He all but laughed in my face.

I walked out.

That’s how it’s done in private business. You resign, you don’t get a severance, man. Ross Ramsey, writing for the Texas Tribune, says private businesses do offer such severance deals, but they come with a price. Ramsey writes:

“In the business world, departing employees are sometimes given a golden parachute in exchange for their silence — a ‘thanks for all you’ve done’ along with a ‘keep your trap shut about what happened here.’” I didn’t get that, so I’m free to blab.

But, when someone leaves a government job in Texas, they qualify for “severance” or “emergency leave.”

Give me a break.

End the practice … as soon as possible.

Pay attention, Gov. Abbott

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There’s little I can add to this blog post by Brian Sweany of Texas Monthly.

Except, perhaps, this: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has a sharp legal mind and he ought to know more than he’s acknowledging regarding the conduct of the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton.

Here’s Sweany’s blog post:

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/abbotts-feigned-ignorance/

Sweany asks a pertinent question: Why doesn’t the governor know more than he knew more than a year ago about Paxton’s conduct?

The AG has been indicted by a Collin County grand jury on felony accusations of securities fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a complaint as well. Paxton is accused of failure to disclose properly income he earned while giving investment advice.

As for Abbott’s “feigned ignorance,” as Sweany calls it, I’ll just add this.

Abbott was a trial judge in Houston before being elected to the Texas Supreme Court. He then was elected as the state’s attorney general, a post he held until January 2015 when he became the state’s governor.

Paxton succeeded Abbott at the AG’s office.

It would seem implausible that the governor knows nothing more now than he did a year ago. I don’t want Abbott to convict his Republican colleague, either, through statements to the media.

Still, to borrow a phrase: Gov. Abbott, what did you know and when did you know it?

 

Texas AG slams door on transparency

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Ken Paxton’s tenure as Texas attorney general has gotten off to a rocky start.

First, a Collin County grand jury indicted the Republican politician on charges of securities fraud, accusing him of failing to report income he derived from giving investment advice to a friend. The Securities and Exchange Commission followed suit with a complaint of its own.

Bad start, man.

Then the attorney general accepts the resignations of two top aides and agrees to keep paying them. What’s worse in this case, according to the Dallas Morning News, is that the AG isn’t explaining why he’s continuing to pay the ex-staffers.

http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/20160509-editorial-ken-paxton-should-answer-our-reporters-questions.ece

The Morning News accuses Paxton of bullying the newspaper’s reporters who keep asking questions about the payments. He’s not willing to explain why he’s using these particular public funds in this manner.

The newspaper has blistered Paxton in an editorial. It demands, correctly in my view, that he hold his office — and himself — accountable for the actions he has taken regarding the resignations of these individuals.

The Morning News asks a pertinent question, noting that state law allows public agencies to grant paid leave when it finds “good cause” to do so. Paxton decided to categorize their departure as paid leave, thus justifying the continued payments to folks who no longer work for the state. The paper asks: What’s the good cause? The attorney general isn’t saying.

The paper offers this bit of advice to the public as it ponders the AG’s behavior: “Voters should take note.”

 

Texas AG getting ahead of himself

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Ken Paxton plans to run for re-election in 2018 for a second term as Texas attorney general.

Big deal? Sure it is. The Republican officeholder is facing criminal charges on a couple of fronts, which suggests to me that he’s getting way ahead of himself.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/04/21/despite-indictments-ken-paxton-plans-run-again/

I get what he’s saying. He’s proclaiming his innocence of charges of securities fraud brought by a Collin County grand jury. What’s more, the Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a complaint against Paxton alleging the same thing.

The man could go to jail if he’s convicted.

What’s getting too little attention here is the context of the indictment that brought the charges against the attorney general.

The panel indicted Paxton for failing to report properly the compensation he received for providing investment advice for friends.

As for the context, let’s remember a couple of critical points. Paxton represented Collin County in the Texas Legislature before running for AG in 2014. The grand jury quite likely included individuals who voted for Paxton when he ran for statewide office. Collin County is a reliably Republican area just north of Dallas. It’s no bastion of liberals out to “get” GOP politicians.

Thus, it’s quite possible that the prosecutors who brought the complaint to the grand jury had the goods on Paxton and the grand jury agreed.

Now, though, the attorney general’s flack has announced he plans to declare officially his intention to seek re-election.

The man’s got some work to do before he even thinks about his political future.

Texas voters need to share in Paxton saga

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Erica Greider, writing a blog for Texas Monthly, takes note of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s growing legal problems.

He shouldn’t stand alone in the alleged culpability, she writes.

Part of the responsibility — perhaps most of it — belongs to the Texans who elected him in 2014 as the state’s top law enforcement officer.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/indictments-texass-attorney-general/

A Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton this past year on several counts of securities fraud. Now, though, the Securities and Exchange Commission — the federal agency that oversees investment transactions — has leveled complaints against the attorney general.

Greider notes correctly that Paxton deserves the presumption of innocence, but she adds: “Even so, for an attorney general to rack up so many indictments with such ease and rapidity is in poor taste and raises troubling questions about his efficacy as manager.”

But none of this was a surprise sprung on Texans after he took office. It had been reported well before the November 2014 election that Paxton was in trouble for allegedly receiving income for investment advice he was giving to friends without reporting it properly to state election officials.

With that, Texans knew they were possibly electing a top legal eagle who himself might be facing some serious legal difficulty.

They elected him. He took office and then — wouldn’t you know it? — the grand jury indicted him and then the SEC weighed in with complaints of its own.

It just seems — to me, at least — that voters ought to be a good bit more discerning when selecting people to high public office.

It’s especially true — again, in my view only — that such discernment ought to be tuned even more finely when those selections involve people we entrust to enforce the state’s laws.

We can do a whole letter better than electing folks who are lugging around this kind of baggage.


 

Texas AG now faces SEC accusation

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is under indictment for securities fraud.

Now, though, the Securities and Exchange Commission has weighed in on the attorney general, charging him with a similar misdeed.

Let’s see. A Collin County grand jury — in Paxton’s home county — has issued a criminal indictment. The SEC now has accused the AG of failure to disclose he was being paid a commission for investment advice he was giving.

Is there a pattern here? Does the state of Texas really deserve to be represented by a top legal eagle who’s now under a dual-edged complaint?

As one who believes in the presumption of innocence, I have been reluctant to call for Paxton to step down from this high office.

Until now.

Paxton has proclaimed his innocence. Of course he would, yes?

I recall during the 2014 campaign for attorney general, though, that Paxton — who served in the Texas Legislature — actually admitted to doing what the grand jury accused him of doing when it indicted him. The grand jury indicted him for failing to disclose that he had been paid for the investment advice he gave.

Still, Texas voters elected him.

According to the Texas Tribune: “People recruiting investors have a legal obligation to disclose any compensation they are receiving to promote a stock, and we allege that Paxton and White concealed the compensation they were receiving for touting Servergy’s product,” Shamoil T. Shipchandler, director of the SEC’s Fort Worth regional office, said in a news release on the complaint.

SEC joins in

This doesn’t look to me like a political witch hunt. The SEC is a regulatory agency run by professionals who are charged with ensuring that investment policies are followed to the letter.

The grand jury? It’s in the very county Paxton — a Republican — represented in the Legislature. Many of the grand jurors likely voted for the guy.

This doesn’t bode well for the attorney general.

For that matter, it doesn’t bode well for the state’s pursuit of top-notch and credible legal advice from its top lawyer.

I wouldn’t shed a tear if Ken Paxton decided to quit so he could devote his full attention to defending himself against these serious charges.

 

Paxton gets no ‘love’ from hometown court

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If the embattled Texas attorney general was expecting to get some favorite-son treatment in his home county …

He’s mistaken.

Ken Paxton faces a possible trial on charges that he solicited investment business without notifying the proper state authorities that he was being compensated. A Collin County grand jury indicted him on the felony charges, to which the McKinney Republican has pleaded not guilty.

Paxton represented the suburban community north of Dallas in the Texas Legislature before being elected in 2014 as the state’s top lawyer.

Now a judge — also in Collin County — has tossed aside a motion to cap the money being to the special prosecution team that’s been appointed to represent the state.

Paxton’s lawyer lacked jurisdiction to file the motion, according to Judge Mark Greenberg.

I’m not going to pre-judge this case. The proceedings to date, though, seem to suggest that AG Paxton might be in for rough ride if this case goes to trial in Collin County.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this case so far has been that Paxton has been indicted by a hometown grand jury and has been delivered setbacks by a court in his hometown as well.

Remember when former Republican Gov. Rick Perry blamed the grand jury in Democrat-friendly Travis County of playing politics when it indicted him for abuse of power?

Paxton can’t make the same argument.

This case could get interesting.