HOUSTON – Court records revealed new details about the investigation into Judge Lina Hidalgo’s office and a nearly $11 million dollar contract for COVID-19 vaccine outreach.
A week after Texas Rangers executed a search warrant, the documents say investigators were seeking electronics like computers and phones, looking for evidence of tampering with a governmental document and misuse of official information.
“These are serious allegations of public corruption,” said KPRC 2 Legal Analyst Brian Wice. “This affidavit suggests that there’s probable cause to believe that evidence of not one, but two felonies exists.”
The documents say county staffers allegedly shared information about the project with Elevate Strategies, the vendor who got the contract, before a request for proposals became public.
When it came time to evaluate the responses, the documents say one staffer wrote in a text, “This vaccine outreach thing is getting ridiculous. We need to slam the door shut on UT and move on.”
The county also received a proposal from UTHealth Science Center, according to the records.
When that staffer was later asked if he could make a meeting, the documents say he texted, “No. Take it away. And don’t let UT get it.”
An attorney for Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a statement, “The misleading storyline of today’s release is the latest act of political theater from a politically motivated investigation. Ultimately, this was about dedicated public servants trying to get the best team to fight COVID-19 in Harris County. Since she came into office, Judge Hidalgo has held herself and her staff to the highest ethical standards and is the only official to refuse donations from all County vendors.”
Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle said he voted against moving forward in the contract negotiation process.
“Look at those documents and the exchanges that occurred and who knows what was acquired in the search itself,” Cagle said. “These were the documents that were used to have a judge grant a search so this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
The district attorney’s office acknowledged the search warrants in a statement but didn’t say much more.
KPRC 2 reached out to Elevate for comment but has not yet heard back.