David Maxwell, the agency’s director of law enforcement, and Mark Penley, the deputy attorney general for criminal justice, have been fired. Both had been on paid investigative leave for weeks in the wake of their roles vetting a complaint made by Nate Paul, a real estate investor and political donor to Paxton. Ian Prior, a political spokesman for Paxton, confirmed the moves Monday.
Paul accused federal and state authorities of wrongdoing related to a raid on his home and office in 2019. An internal email obtained by the Texas Tribune showed the complaints had been examined by senior aides, who found them meritless. Paxton has said he was concerned that his staff had not sufficiently vetted Paul’s allegations. Paxton ultimately hired an outside attorney to look into the matter, sparking a staff mutiny during which top aides accused Paxton of using the agency to serve Paul’s financial interests. Those aides reported Paxton to law enforcement. Paxton has denied the allegations and called the whistleblowers “rogue employees.”
Prior said Maxwell was fired for violating agency policies, including making employment decisions without consulting the human resources department “that have resulted in allegations of discrimination.”
“He also violated other policies and has taken other actions that have left no choice but to terminate his employment,” Prior said in a statement.
In another statement, Prior said Penley “omitted or misrepresented to a court material facts, as well as other policy violations.”
Neither Maxwell nor Penley immediately returned requests for comment Monday night. The press team for the office of the attorney general did not return requests for comment.
Maxwell has been at the attorney general’s office since 2014 and in law enforcement for some 50 years. He is well known in Texas law enforcement circles, where he became famous for identifying the man who killed his sister decades after her death.
Penley has been with the attorney general’s office since 2019.
Two other top aides who accused Paxton of criminal violations — Blake Brickman and Lacey Mase — were fired last month. Penley, Brickman and Mase had each signed on to a letter to the agency’s human resources department, as well as alerted law enforcement to Paxton’s behavior, meaning they gained legal protections for whistleblowers. Maxwell, while involved in the investigation into Paul’s claims, was not a signatory on the letter. Other aides have been put on leave or resigned.Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.