Lina Hidalgo staffers to stay on the job after felony charges related to $11 million COVID-19 contract – Houston Public Media

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo answers questions after unsealed court documents alleged staff in Hidalgo’s office ran an $11 million contract for a COVID-19 outreach project in a preferred supplier. Taken on March 22, 2022.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Tuesday she still would not fire senior executives accused of awarding an $11 million contract to a preferred supplier, even after they were charged with a felony on Monday.

In a statement, Hidalgo said she would retain two staff members – Wallis Nader and chief of staff Alex Triantaphyllis – and argued that the current narrative surrounding the allegations was not accurate, citing recent reports that she said provide. another explanation of communications.

“Reports have already shown that the recent charges suffer from a serious lack of understanding of the facts,” she said. “My team will remain on my staff and continue to make meaningful positive change on behalf of the people of Harris County.”

Hidalgo added that she believed the “unfair” accusations were politically motivated, as she is running for office in November.

Triantaphyllis, Nader and former senior adviser Aaron Dunn – who no longer works in Hidalgo’s office – were all charged on Monday with falsifying records and misusing official information, according to court documents. All three appeared in court on Tuesday.

Misusing official information is a third-degree felony, while tampering with a government record is a felony in state prison.

Hidalgo has not been charged with a crime and has categorically denied any wrongdoing.

The three staff members were accused of communicating with a vendor, Elevate Strategies, to tailor the scope of work for the multimillion-dollar contract to suit the strengths of the business. The contract with Elevate Strategies was eventually withdrawn after public outcry.

The Texas Rangers raided the Harris County Administration Building last month looking for phones and computers belonging to the three staff members. Unsealed warrants detail correspondence between them and Elevate founder Felicity Pereyra, as well as text messages between staffers and Hidalgo herself that appear to show Hidalgo was aware of the coordination. His lawyers then offered another explanation – that the correspondence involved a separate contract from the COVID-19 awareness project.

A spokesperson for Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg confirmed in a statement that his office is pursuing the case.

“Prosecutors presented the evidence to a Harris County grand jury, which determined there was sufficient evidence for criminal charges,” spokesman Dane Schiller wrote.

PREVIOUSLY | 3 Lina Hidalgo staffers charged in $11 million Harris County COVID vaccine outreach deal

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