First, Judge Lina Hidalgo. Now, Mayor Sylvester Turner - Allegations of Corruption / Bid-Rigging.
Updated: Oct 7, 2022
First, we had Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's highly dubious award of $11 million dollars in pandemic relief funds to "Elevate Strategies LLC", reportedly a "one-woman" company created by, and utilizing, former and current Democratic political operatives. The resulting media scrutiny and political fallout from the implied contract bid-rigging and cronyism forced Judge Hidalgo to later rescind that contract. This matter is currently under investigation by the Harris County District Attorney's Office. For more details, please click on the link below:
Of Concern: County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the $11 Million Dollar "Elevate Strategies LLC" Contract (harriscountydemocrats.com)
Harris County District Attorney demands documents on county's $11 million vaccine contract - ABC13 Houston
Lina Hidalgo, Basking in National Praise, Faces a Potential Scandal at Home in Houston – Texas Monthly
Now, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's own Housing Director, Tom McCasland, publicly accused the Mayor of contract bid-rigging. In summary, McCasland alleged Mayor Turner bypassed the competitive bid process (and a superior bid) in order to award a $15 million dollar housing development contract to benefit his former law firm partner, Barry Barnes. In response to this "whistle-blower" complaint, Mayor Turner immediately fired Director McCasland and then denied any wrong-doing. This bid-rigging complaint is now under investigation by the Texas General Land Office, which has oversight authority over the housing development funding source (Hurricane Harvey relief money). For more on this story, please see the links below:
Houston Housing Director Fired After Accusing Sylvester Turner Of Awarding $15 Million To Favored Developer – Houston Public Media
'No Fraud. No Conflict,' says Mayor in response to bid-rigging allegation (fox26houston.com)
Editorial: Tell the truth, Mayor Turner. Why the 'charade' over wasteful housing contract? (houstonchronicle.com)
Houston Mayor orders review of controversial housing deal (fox26houston.com)
Grieder: Houston City Council should insist on answers from Mayor Turner in housing deal flap (msn.com)
Frankly, I am very concerned about the lack on transparency in the contract selection and procurement process in both city and county government. Based on these media reports, it appears our local officials are circumventing the established competitive bid process and anti-corruption safeguards in order to funnel millions of federal relief dollars to their cronies. So, are these corruption allegations true? If so, are these isolated incidents, or just the tip of the iceberg? To restore public confidence in local government and our elected officials, I urge Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg to investigate these allegations and let the chips fall where they may. Before the upcoming 2022 election season, Harris County voters need, and deserve, some candid answers.
UPDATE 10/5/21: Good news. The Harris County District Attorney's Office is now looking into the City's procurement policies. Please click on the link below for more information.
13 Investigates: Harris County District Attorney's Office opens probe into city of Houston's procurement policies - ABC13 Houston
UPDATE 10/11/21: After intense media scrutiny and the launch of a probe by the District Attorney's Office, Mayor Sylvester Turner has now decided to drop his support for the controversial housing development contract (see link below). I fully support that decision. After all, attempted corruption is better than completed corruption, right?
Mayor Turner drops support for controversial housing deal (yahoo.com)
13 Investigates: City hides details in documents as council passes on housing probe (msn.com)
Houston Council Member Calls for Texas Rangers to Investigate Mayor Turner's Housing Department | The Texan
UPDATE 11/23/21: The Texas General Land Office (GLO) completed their review and found that the City of Houston's current affordable housing program competitive bid process is not fair or open, with the City (Mayor Turner and/or his administration) ignoring their own bid scoring system and awarding development contracts to whomever they want (thus the corruption scandal above). The GLO will require the City of Houston to implement significant reforms before receiving more federal funds under the Hurricane Harvey housing program. For more information, please click on the links below:
Millions of dollars at risk in Houston after GLO review of Houston housing (msn.com)
GLO review finds city Harvey housing program ‘undermines’ competitive process (houstonchronicle.com)
Deal at center of Turner scandal stuck out among Houston's affordable housing proposals this year (houstonchronicle.com)
UPDATE 1/15/22: The above stories are still getting media attention:
Democratic leaders in Texas face possible felony corruption charges | KEYE (cbsaustin.com)
UPDATE 3/25/22: The on-going criminal investigation into the corruption scandal involving Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and her senior staff has uncovered significant evidence indicating the allegations are, in fact, true. In our opinion, felony indictments are now likely. For recent developments in this matter, please click on the link below:
Lina Hidalgo's Corruption Journey: From A "Bring It On!" Lion to a Lawyered-Up Mouse. Geez. (harriscountydemocrats.com)
UPDATE 4/11/22: Today, three of County Judge Lina Hidalgo's top office staff members, including her Chief of Staff, were indicted on felony charges related to the $11 million dollar contract awarded to Elevate Strategies LLC last year. Now, we just need to wait and see if one (or more) of the indicted staff decide to make a deal with prosecutors and testify against anyone else who may have been involved. I think we all know where this is headed...
For more information on the felony indictments, please click on the media links below:
Felony indictments filed for Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo’s chief of staff, 2 others in $11M COVID-19 outreach contract investigation (click2houston.com)
3 senior staffers of Judge Lina Hidalgo indicted in Harris County vaccine contract investigation (msn.com)
UPDATE 4/19/22: Houston columnist and Fox26 contributor Mr. Bill King has pointed out numerous irregularities which strongly indicate that Elevate Strategies LLC submitted exorbitant invoices for work not actually performed and that Harris County rushed to approve and pay those invoices (totaling over $1.4 million dollars) even as the contract was being cancelled. After reviewing the media report and Mr. King's opinion article, we agree this matter definitely warrants an investigation. To that end, we urge Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg to expand her criminal investigation of this contract to include whether fraudulent invoices were submitted by Elevate Strategies LLC and, if so, whether any Harris County official(s) knowingly approved those fraudulent invoices. It could also be enlightening to find out if anyone intervened in the normal county financial process to expedite those payments to Elevate Strategies LLC. It is worth noting that the Harris County Attorney's Office advised they have already recovered approximately $200,000 of the money paid to Elevate Strategies LLC and that Elevate Strategies has agreed to pay back an additional $500,000. Frankly, vendors that submit legitimate invoices and comply with all the terms of their contracts don't usually agree to pay back the money they receive...
To view the Fox26 media report and read Mr. King's article, please click on the links below:
Harris County paid vendor $1.4M after controversial COVID contract canceled (fox26houston.com)
County paid $885,000 on the vaccine contract after Hidalgo decided to cancel it | Houston Daily
UPDATE 5/19/22: Yesterday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo stated she expects to be indicted in the alleged bid-rigging corruption scandal that has already led to the indictments of three of her top staffers. Judge Hidalgo attacked Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, stating that the investigation into the Elevate Strategies LLC contract is politically motivated (of note, Hidalgo and Ogg are both Democrats). DA Ogg denies politics is involved, stating that the investigation is based on the evidence and facts. When presented with the evidence, a grand jury indicted Hidalgo's top staff, with the criminal investigation still on-going. Now, it is possible that one (or more) of Hidalgo's indicted staff is cooperating with DA investigators (made a plea-bargain deal) so, as more evidence comes to light, more felony indictments may indeed be forthcoming. Stay tuned...
For more information, please click on the media links below:
‘Steel-caged death match’: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo says she expects to be indicted in ongoing investigation (click2houston.com)
'This must stop.' DA Kim Ogg fires back after Hidalgo comments (msn.com)
13 Investigates: Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg demands Judge Lina Hidalgo stop 'daily public misstatements' - ABC13 Houston
UPDATE 8/20/22: Not to be outdone by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's Office has another corruption scandal - see media links below. Geez.
Mayor Sylvester Turner says he did not know anything about top aide William-Paul Thomas' guilty plea to corruption charge - ABC13 Houston
13 Investigates confirms FBI searches home of restaurateur (msn.com)
UPDATE: HarrisCountyDemocrats.com has posted our candidate endorsements for the upcoming general election in November. To view our endorsements, please click on the link below:
Candidate Endorsements | Harris County Democrats
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