An outside lawyer hired by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to investigate allegations of unlawful conduct by federal authorities billed the state more than $14,000 in September before he was told to stop last week.
An expense invoice submitted by Houston defense lawyer Brandon Cammack and obtained by the American-Statesman sheds light on his work.
Paxton hired Cammack to look into allegations brought to Paxton by Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, whose residence and offices were raided by federal agents in August last year. Paul complained the authorities who executed the searches did so without proper warrants, among other things.
The involvement of Cammack stunned top executives in the attorney general’s office and triggered a criminal complaint against their boss.
Cammack’s invoice lists time spent interviewing witnesses, a 16-minute phone call with Paxton on Sept. 6, and time spent drafting subpoenas for phone records and emails. He reported more than 46 billable hours.
Cammack also requested $180 in reimbursement for a hotel stay in Austin on Sept. 27.
The contract Cammack signed with the attorney general’s office shows he began work on Sept. 3 as an outside counsel. Under the contract, Cammack was to be paid $300 an hour, capped at $25,000. The contract also bars Cammack from participating in media events or articles about the work as outside counsel without prior written approval from the agency.
The contract was signed by Paxton.
Paxton’s aides were floored by their boss’s move to hire a lawyer from outside the agency to conduct the probe, raising concerns that Paxton might be acting on Paul’s behalf. The seven aides have accused Paxton of several crimes, including bribery, and have requested that he be investigated.
Paxton has said that, because he knew Paul, he turned the investigation over to an outside independent counsel. Paxton also said, without elaborating, that he needed to find an investigator outside the agency because employees of his agency “impeded the investigation.”
Once Cammack’s investigation is complete, Paxton said this week, it will be up to Travis County prosecutors to review the results and determine if any criminal charges should be pursued.
After learning Cammack had participated in court proceedings, Deputy Attorney General Mark Penley sent Cammack two cease-and-desist letters stating that he had no authority under state law to serve as a special prosecutor and that by doing so he might have committed a crime.
Cammack’s investigation hit another snag when a Travis County judge last Friday undid much of the progress the lawyer had made by voiding 37 subpoenas he had intended to use to secure evidence.
Cammack told The Dallas Morning News this week that he continues to work on the investigation over the objections of Paxton’s aides. He told the paper he is trying to reissue the subpoenas. Cammack’s contract runs through Aug. 31, 2021.
The attorney general’s office also released a June 10 referral letter from Don Clemmer, director of special prosecutions for the Travis County district attorney’s office. Clemmer told Paxton’s agency in the letter that he was forwarding a complaint alleging misconduct by employees of the State Securities Board, the FBI, Texas Department of Public Safety, a federal judge and the U.S. attorney’s office for the district that includes Austin.
Clemmer says he could not follow the standard procedure of sending the complaint to the Texas Department of Public Safety because at least one of its employees was named in the complaint.
“I am therefore requesting that your agency conduct the review,” Clemmer wrote.
Clemmer’s boss, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore, said that it was Paxton who approached her office to arrange a meeting to address Paul’s complaint. The meeting, held May 8 in Austin, included Paxton, Paul, Paul’s lawyer, and prosecutors for the DA’s office.
“Members of my office listened to Mr. Paul’s complaints,” Moore said. “Then, he and his attorney were told to file a request to investigate. The nature and scope of the complaints that Mr. Paul made we would normally refer to a law enforcement agency.”
Paul’s lawyer, Michael Wynne, said the feds violated his client’s constitutional rights during the raid last year. He further suggested that Paxton’s aides have interfered in the investigation into the feds.
“As a private citizen whose constitutional rights were egregiously violated, Mr. Paul reported the matters by filing a complaint with the appropriate authorities,” Wynne said in a statement on Thursday. “Blatant interference with an investigation of Mr. Paul’s complaint has now been followed by retaliatory and unfounded allegations aimed at impeding a fair investigation of his complaint. These events should be alarming to every Texan and every person who values their constitutional rights.
“The fact that a detailed complaint of government impropriety is met with such forceful resistance from those entrusted with investigating the matters underscores the serious problems within the system. This improper and illegal behavior will not be tolerated, and we plan to seek all available legal remedies.”