Of Concern: County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the $11 Million Dollar "Elevate Strategies LLC" Contract
Updated: Oct 5
Please click on the links below for the media reports on this story:
In my opinion, this whole thing stinks to high heaven. Based on the media reports, the words "corruption", "bribery", "contract rigging", "cronyism" and, yes, "crooked politicians" all come to my mind. Just like Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, I believe Democratic Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the other participants in this $11 million dollar contract could eventually find themselves under FBI investigation for potential corruption. At the state level, I wouldn't be surprised if the Texas Ranger's Public Integrity Unit also decided to look into this matter. With many Democratic incumbents coming up for re-election next year, this potential fiasco is the last thing we needed. This could all be legit, but it sure looks bad.
To help mitigate the situation, I urge Commissioners Court to rescind the contract handed to Elevate Strategies LLC and require all companies to actually meet the existing minimum eligibility requirements before they are allowed to bid on Harris County contracts. To address this controversy, County Judge Hidalgo and the Harris County Purchasing Department need to explain to the public, in detail, why this tiny (one person?) company was deemed eligible to bid, qualified and capable to deliver, and the best overall choice for the $11 million dollar contract ("Targeted Community Vaccine Delivery"). Frankly, it might also be illuminating to know who asked Harris County Purchasing to put this out for bids in the first place, and who picked the selection committee.
NOTE: According to the media reports, the person who created Elevate Strategies LLC, Felicity Pereyra, previously worked on Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia's political campaign. Geez. Not very subtle, guys.
9/9/21 UPDATE: According to media reports, County Judge Hidalgo was the one who proposed hiring an outside firm to conduct the vaccination outreach campaign. The selection process then apparently included waiving bid eligibility requirements, a stacked selection committee, passing over a lower-cost / higher-scored bidder (UT Health Science Center, no less), and then awarding the $11 million dollar contract to a tiny, one-person company headed by a person who previously worked on Democratic political campaigns, including one by Commissioner Garcia. To make matters even worse, it now turns out at least a dozen of the subcontractors listed by Elevate Strategies LLC are also past Democratic political operatives. You just can't make this stuff up. I know things are not always as they appear, but this contract really appears to be a shameless scheme to funnel $11 million dollars of pandemic relief money to County Judge Hidalgo's political cronies. I would like to think County Judge Hidalgo was unaware of all the apparent chicanery but, has it turns out, her own Chief of Staff, Alex Triantaphyllis, was on the contract selection committee. Good Lord.
Great news: After all the controversy and media scrutiny, Judge Hidalgo has agreed to rescind the $11 million dollar contract awarded to Elevate Strategies LLC. I completely support that decision. Of course, putting the cookie back in the cookie jar after getting your hand slapped doesn't make the whole thing go away. Again, there is more than enough smoke here to warrant a thorough investigation - perhaps DA Kim Ogg will step in and get to the bottom of this fiasco. As Democrats, we constantly stress transparency. Let's practice what we preach and let the chips fall where they may.
For the recent media reports on this story, please click on the links below.
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