Impeachment prosecutors bill $3.7M for Paxton trial

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Outside attorneys hired by the Texas House to prosecute Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment billed over $3.7 million for their legal services and expenses, according to records obtained by KXAN through the Texas Public Information Act.

The top-flight legal counsel hired by the state includes Dick DeGuerin, Rusty Hardin and Harriet O’Neill.

House Business Office records showed Rusty Hardin and Associates worked the most hours, billing over $3 million, including $2.7 million in legal fees and about $340,00 in expenses.

According to state billing records, the DeGuerin & Dickson firm billed over $470,000 total, and the Law Office of Harriet O’Neill invoiced just over $193,000. DeGuerin and Hardin did not immediately return requests for comment.

The impeachment case created a political firestorm at the state Capitol. Within days of Paxton’s acquittal on all articles in September, Patrick ordered the State Auditor’s Office to conduct a special audit of the total cost of the investigation and trial.

“To be clear, the goal is to determine the absolute total cost to the state of preparing for and conducting this trial from the beginning through its conclusion,” Patrick said in the letter, which asked auditors to detail every possible type of expense both billed and outstanding for the ordeal.

The total cost of the impeachment is certainly higher than the $3.7 million spent on outside prosecutors. That total does not include costs for staff attorneys in the House and a former judge on by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to advise him as a judge in the Senate trial. The Dallas Morning News reported a total exceeding $4.3 million, with additional costs included.

Hours and expenses rack up

The cost to impeach Paxton climbed quickly once Hardin and DeGuerin came on board. Hardin put over two dozen attorneys and others from his firm on the case, and they logged thousands of hours collectively. In one billing period, Hardin worked over 400 hours, costing more than $200,000 at his rate of $500 per hour, records show.

Workers at Hardin’s firm also worked hundreds of that they didn’t charge for, according to the billing records.

Hardin’s firm racked up sizable expenses in its effort, including tens of thousands of dollars on hotels, transportation and office supplies, according to the records.

The paperwork costs alone soared: Hardin’s team spent over $36,000 on transcripts and more than $10,000 on notebooks, the records show.

Impeachment fallout

The House voted to impeach Paxton in late May with a vote of 121-23 on 20 articles of impeachment. The articles alleged Paxton had abused his power, disregarded his duties, engaged in bribery, made false statements in official public records, obstructed justice and misappropriated public resources. Many of the allegations centered on assistance he allegedly provided a friend and campaign donor.

The impeachment trial took place in the Senate and lasted nearly two weeks. Paxton was suspended from his duties at the Office of Attorney General amid the impeachment but returned after his acquittal.

The impeachment ordeal began when Paxton’s office asked the Legislature for over $3.3 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit against his office that was filed by employees who alleged they were wrongfully retaliated against for filing complaints against Paxton.

The potential taxpayer-funded settlement prompted House members to investigate the whistleblower allegations against Paxton prior to approval.

The whistleblower case remains pending.

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