Lina Hidalgo's Corruption Journey: From A "Bring It On!" Lion to a Lawyered-Up Mouse. Geez.
Updated: Jan 11
The Roaring Lion: Back in September 2021, when Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle questioned whether County Judge Lina Hidalgo and/or her staff had somehow rigged the award of an $11 million-dollar county COVID contract to a Democratic political operative (Felicity Pereyra, Elevate Strategies LLC), County Judge Hidalgo adamantly denied any impropriety. When an investigation into this matter was suggested, Judge Hidalgo yelled, "Bring It On! Bring it on because there is nothing here." - see links below:
Serious questions emerge around $11 million Harris County COVID-19 contract (fox26houston.com)
Texas Rangers Raid, Primary Debacle Expose Hidalgo's Decision Making | NewsRadio 740 KTRH | KTRH Local Houston and Texas News (iheart.com)
Fast forward to March 2022: On 3/11/22, the Texas Rangers, working with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, executed search warrants at the Harris County Administration Building, to include offices used by County Judge Lina Hidalgo's senior staff. Based on the details in the search warrants, investigators have uncovered a large amount of evidence showing that Lina Hidalgo's staff provided Felicity Pereyra (Elevate Strategies LLC) with the county's draft Request for Proposals (RFP), to include the scope of work, about a month before the RFP was sent out publicly for competitive bids. The court documents also outline communication that appears to show Judge Hidalgo was aware of her staff coordination with Ms. Pereyra. After the RFP was formally issued, the evidence indicates that Judge Hidalgo's staff on the RFP Selection Committee then conspired to ensure Elevate Strategies LLC was awarded the county contract. At minimum, these county officials appear guilty of committing two felonies: Tampering with a government document and misuse of official information.
The Squeaking Mouse: Yesterday, local reporters tried to get County Judge Hidalgo to answer questions about the above corruption scandal, but Hidalgo refused to answer most questions and instead referred them to her criminal defense lawyers. Judge Hidalgo did imply that the allegations were, in part, politically motivated. “I know politics when I see politics,” she said. “But I am battle tested, and I am not deterred.” Hidalgo's attorneys have also called the release of the information in the search warrants a "misleading storyline (that) is the latest act of political theater from a politically motivated investigation." In response, Harris County DA Kim Ogg (a Democrat) said, "There's no political ploy. When we investigate public corruption, we're doing our job."
From adamant denials to essentially "talk to my lawyers", Lina Hidalgo's corruption scandal is just now starting to unfold, with felony criminal indictments very likely. In the meantime, the Harris County Attorney's Office, at the urging of Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, is still trying to claw back over $1.2 million dollars in taxpayer funds that was initially paid out by the county to Elevate Strategies LLC. Stay tuned...
For more information, please see the links below:
Judge Lina Hidalgo silent as county commissioner calls for suspensions, more contract questions emerge - ABC13 Houston
Unsealed warrants detail communication between Hidalgo staffers and a vendor over $11 million contract – Houston Public Media
13 Investigates: Search warrant on Harris County contract details alleged advantage given to Elevate Strategies - ABC13 Houston
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo calls search warrants into Elevate Strategies contract controversy 'misleading' - ABC13 Houston
Primary Voters Beware... Could Judge Lina Hidalgo be Indicted for Corruption Later this Year? (harriscountydemocrats.com)
Of Concern: County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the $11 Million Dollar "Elevate Strategies LLC" Contract (harriscountydemocrats.com)
And viewpoints from another local blog, which, in this case, appears to sum up the situation extremely well:
County Vaccine Contract Exposed as Blatant Bid-Rigging - Bill King Blog
UPDATE 4/8/22: A newly released search warrant reportedly named the Google accounts of six senior staff members of the Harris County Judge’s Office, including Judge Lina Hidalgo herself. Investigators reportedly seized a total of fourteen Google files relevant to their investigation. For more information on this development, please see the media links below:
New search warrant requests Google Docs in probe involving Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, team (click2houston.com)
New search warrant for Harris County staffers' Google accounts | khou.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: On 10/1/22, HarrisCountyDemocrats.com 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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