AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The state is paying thousands of dollars in salaries and benefits to at least two former high-level staffers in Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office who haven’t worked there for over a month.
The Dallas Morning News (https://bit.ly/1Vt5eDc ) reports Charles “Chip” Roy resigned as first assistant attorney general March 9 but remains on the state’s payroll. He received his full month’s salary of $16,220.62 on April 1, according to the state comptroller, and remains on the payroll as an employee of the state even while working a new job for a national political committee.
Roy declined to comment about the payment arrangement, which the agency confirmed Wednesday after The Dallas Morning News raised questions. Despite its earlier public statement that Roy resigned, an agency spokeswoman said Thursday that he’s also on “emergency leave.”
“Roy resigned on March 9. He is currently on emergency leave through June 10,” spokeswoman Cynthia Meyer said late Thursday.
If Roy’s arrangement continues until then, he will make $48,660 for the three months of emergency leave.
The agency at first offered no further explanation of the reason for the leave. When asked to clarify the emergency, Meyer said: “I’m not sure the answer.”
Texas’ “emergency leave” law says a state employee who has experienced a death in the family can take time off without seeing his or her pay cut. Agency heads also can approve other reasons for emergency leave if the employee “shows good case to take emergency leave.”
Employment law prohibits state workers from pulling down full-time salaries if they don’t work at least 40 hours a week for a public entity. There is no severance for workers who leave state employment, and the law that gives agency heads discretion in granting administrative leave also caps such time at 32 hours per year.
Austin-based campaign finance and ethics attorney Buck Wood questioned the arrangement.
“So, the emergency wasn’t so great that this person can’t work, or has any problems working? They just want to give her or him the money,” said Wood, who was not told the name of the individual or the agency in question. “This person obviously didn’t provide ‘good cause’ because they’re working. They’re just feeding you a line.”
Roy’s resignation was sudden. At the time, Paxton made no mention of any emergency and hired Roy’s replacement the same day. The next day, Roy took a job as executive director of a super PAC supporting Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.
The comptroller’s office, which cuts checks for state employees, was unaware Roy and others who had resigned from the attorney general’s office were still being paid until The News contacted them.
Former communications director Allison Castle left the agency March 10, according to media reports. But, like Roy, she remains on the payroll. She was paid her full monthly salary of $12,825 on April 1.
Castle did not return multiple requests for comment. Meyer, Paxton’s spokeswoman, said she could not confirm whether any other agency employees were also on emergency leave like Roy.
“We have more than 4,000 employees, so in order to answer your question with accuracy, we’d have to look into it and get back to you,” she said.
Other staffers who recently left the agency do not continue to draw salaries or benefits. Deputy Press Secretary Katherine Wise left the agency April 10.
The comptroller’s office confirmed that its system showed Wise had moved to another agency within state government. She is now working for Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston.
Bernard L. McNamee, Paxton’s former chief of staff who announced in November that he would soon be leaving the agency to return to private practice, received a lump sum for his remaining vacation and leave time and was removed from the state’s payroll by December.
Paxton’s office has had several high-profile departures and hires in recent weeks, including the resignations of Roy and Castle, who were replaced by Jeff Mateer of the conservative law firm the Liberty Institute and Marc Rylander, a former pastor at Prestonwood Baptist, the Plano-based megachurch Paxton attends.
As his agency undergoes some top-level turnover, Paxton is embroiled in multiple legal battles over his failure to register as a securities adviser while he was a state representative. This week, federal officials levied civil fraud charges against him, adding to the three state criminal indictments he was already facing.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com
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