AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking the Texas Supreme Court to dismiss the whistleblower lawsuit by four former employees who say they were fired after accusing Paxton of abuse of power and other legal violations.
According to the petition for review filed on Wednesday, Paxton argues that his office has the right to "fire its employees – especially employees whose political appointments require they act on behalf of the duly elected Attorney General – at will."
The petition also argues that Paxton can't be sued because the Texas Whistleblower Act was intended to protect government employees from on-the-job retaliation by another public employee and that distinction doesn't apply to the attorney general.
"The Attorney General is not a 'public employee,' which is defined to include 'an employee or appointed officer," the petition states. "Like the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and members of this Court, he is an elected officer, chosen by the people of Texas to exercise sovereign authority on their behalf."
When Paxton made a similar argument before the Texas Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the court allowed the lawsuit to continue, ruling in October that the whistleblower act protects government workers from being fired for making "a good-faith report of illegal conduct" by an employer.
The court declined to "adopt the interpretation of the Act proposed by the [Office of the Attorney General], which would have the effect of stripping whistleblower protections from employees who might report misconduct by the thousands of elected officials throughout the State – particularly by those who direct and lead the agencies of this State."
In the petition to the Supreme Court, Paxton says that the employees were dismissed from their posts "following several policy disagreements."
"These disagreements each regarded duties well within the Attorney General’s authority, such as whether to retain outside counsel, issue a legal opinion, investigate potentially criminal acts and intervene in pending litigation," the petition reads.
The petition urges the Supreme Court to reject the lawsuit's "vague, conclusory and speculative allegations," stating that they don't constitute a good-faith report of wrongdoing by the attorney general.
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