Ken Paxton

Paxton's Call for Phelan's Resignation is a ‘Last Ditch Effort to Save Face:' Speaker's Office

Texas Speaker's office says House General Investigative Committee has been looking into the attorney general's office since March

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The office of Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan says calls for his resignation Tuesday from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are a last-ditch effort to save face ahead of a hearing Wednesday morning with a House investigative committee looking into his $3.3 million whistleblower settlement.

Paxton tweeted Tuesday afternoon that Phelan should step down and accused him of presiding over the Texas House "in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication." Paxton issued his statement just before 3 p.m. on Twitter, saying the speaker's conduct "has negatively impacted the legislative process and constitutes a failure to live up to his duty to the public."

The attorney general's office confirmed to NBC 5 they were referring to a video of Phelan (R-Beaumont, District 21) that had been circulated on social media and that appeared to show the speaker muddling his words on the dias as the House neared the end of a 14-hour session.

"While I hope Speaker Phelan will get the help he needs, he has proven himself unworthy of Texans' trust and incapable of leading the Texas House," Paxton wrote.

The attorney general also called for an investigation into the speaker by the Texas House's General Investigative Committee, which includes allies of the speaker, for allegedly violating House rules and state law and for conduct unbecoming his position.

Phelan, meanwhile, continued presiding over the House Tuesday as lawmakers worked through bills in the session's final days. It wasn't until about 5:30 p.m. that the speaker's office responded to the general's tweet, telling NBC 5 the Texas House General Investigating Committee had directed a preservation letter to Paxton's office Tuesday to ensure that all evidence and communications related to a whistleblower settlement reached earlier this year are not to be destroyed or concealed.

Committee Chairman Andrew Murr said Tuesday that the committee posted a notification last Friday about a hearing scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday to hear evidence related to “Matter A.”

"Committee minutes and official House records indicate the committee has been investigating 'Matter A' since March – and the motives for and timing behind Paxton’s statement today couldn’t be more evident," said Cait Wittman, Speaker Phelan's communications director. "As outlined in the attached preservation letter, the Committee is conducting a thorough examination of the events tied to the firing of the whistleblowers in addition to Ken Paxton’s allegedly illegal conduct. Committee minutes show that subpoenas have been issued. Mr. Paxton’s statement today amounts to little more than a last-ditch effort to save face."

Paxton is under FBI investigation over accusations by several former aides who accused him of corruption and improperly using his office to help a donor. Paxton has denied the allegations and in February agreed to settle a lawsuit with his accusers for $3.3 million. That money, however, is contingent on House lawmakers approving using taxpayer money for the settlement.

Phelan has previously expressed unease with taxpayers footing the bill.

The ongoing 88th legislative session ends May 29.


NBC 5 and the Associated Press.
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