3 Hidalgo staffers indicted in $11M COVID-19 outreach contract investigation appear in court

Here's what we know

Three senior staffers for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo made their first court appearance on Tuesday. The trio was indicted in an investigation surrounding an $11,000,000 COVID-19 outreach contract that was previously awarded to Elevate Strategies.

Alex Triantaphyllis, Hidalgo’s current chief of staff, policy director Wallis Nader and a former senior advisor, Aaron Dunn, have all been charged with felony misuse of official information and tampering with a record.

They were each named in search warrants executed by Texas Rangers on March 11.

Related: Felony indictments filed for Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo’s chief of staff, 2 others in $11M COVID-19 outreach contract investigation

According to search warrants, investigators were looking for any communications or files that may show they disclosed non-public information to Felicity Pereyra, who founded Elevate Strategies.

Elevate Strategies was awarded the multi-million dollar contract by the county. However, it was revoked last fall after questions surfaced about how it was awarded.

Related: New search warrant requests Google Docs in probe involving Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, team

All three staffers have been released on a $3,500 bail.

According to the details of their bond release, the trio cannot discuss details of the case with one another, they cannot have contact with any documentation related to the case and they cannot serve on any committee or group that would be considered any kind of government contract.

Hidalgo is standing by her staffers, releasing various statements maintaining their innocence.

“Since the State of Texas disbanded the Public Integrity Unit, which was housed at Travis County District Attorney’s Office, the responsibility for such work has landed exclusively with district attorneys across the state,” said Dane Schiller, spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. “Prosecutors presented the evidence to a Harris County grand jury, which determined there was sufficient evidence for criminal charges. We will follow the evidence wherever it leads and apply the law equally to all; our work continues,” a statement released Monday from the judge’s office read.

On Tuesday, Hidalgo released another statement.

“News reports have already shown that recent accusations suffer from a serious lack of understanding of the facts. My team will remain on my staff and continue to make meaningful positive changes on behalf of the people of Harris County. It’s no coincidence that these unfair allegations are being leveled against them in the middle of an election year,” the statement read.

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