AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Attorney General Ken Paxton cannot receive back-pay for the months he was suspended from office after the Texas House impeached him, the state’s top accountant said in a letter Tuesday.
Paxton demanded a reimbursement of his $153,750 annual salary for the time period in which he wasn’t getting a paycheck. He’s also threatening legal action against Comptroller Glenn Hegar if he does not comply, according to a letter sent Monday.
“Public servants may continue to receive a salary while on leave for investigatory purposes,” wrote First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster in the letter. “This office is considering all legal avenues to correct this injustice.”
Once the House impeached Paxton on May 27, he was automatically temporarily suspended from office without pay. The three-term Republican was reinstated as attorney general following his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, in which senators found him not guilty of 16 articles of impeachment — which accused Paxton of bribery, misuse of office, and retaliation against former top deputies who reported him to federal authorities.
Webster argued the Texas Constitution does not explicitly state a suspended officeholder cannot receive pay pending the outcome of an impeachment trial.
Additionally, Paxton has called out Hegar in his post-verdict media interviews. Last Thursday in an interview with Lubbock radio host Chad Hasty, Hegar doubled down on his position that the law does not permit back-pay for Paxton’s impeachment suspension — citing two different instances where the Texas Legislature provided clarity on the issue.
“They essentially changed state law, state statutes, and they changed the state Constitution that the voters approved to allow employees of the state — certain employees, but not state officeholders — and they also enabled judges both to be on essentially leave with their pay at times,” Hegar said, “but it doesn’t apply to us [as state officeholders], and the law is clear.”
In a four-page response Tuesday, Hegar’s general counsel — Victoria North — said the attorney general’s arguments do not match up with Texas law.
“We have a duty to follow the Texas Constitution and laws,” North wrote. “Because we disagree with your interpretation of the Texas Constitution on this very important issue, we encourage you to file a writ of mandamus with the Texas Supreme Court for a definitive ruling.”
She cited Article III, Section 44 of the state constitution which “prohibits the grant of extra compensation after services have been performed” and Article III, Section 51 which “prohibits gratutious grants of public money.”
The Comptroller’s office suggested Paxton appeal this matter to the Texas Supreme Court, saying he can be back-paid if the court agrees with his argument.
“If the Texas Supreme Court answers this unprecedented legal question by ruling that our constitution does not prohibit the payment of the Attorney General’s compensation during his temporary suspension, we will process your office’s payroll vouchers for the Attorney General,” North wrote.