Texas county judge’s chief of staff, ex-staffers indicted in connection to $11 million COVID outreach contract

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Two former aides for the elected executive, called the county judge, who oversees the main governing body of Texas‘ largest county, and her chief of staff, are named in felony indictments filed Monday in connection with an investigation into an $11 million contract for COVID-19 outreach. 

Court documents said Aaron Dunn, Wallis Nader and Alex Triantaphyllis are each charged with misuse of official information and tampering with records. 

Triantaphyllis is the chief of staff for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat. Nader and Dunn were employed as a policy director and policy aide, respectively, in Hidalgo’s office. 

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The indictments came following an investigation into a COVID-19 outreach contract awarded in June 2021 to Elevate Strategies, a one-person consultant firm run by a political strategist with a limited track record that did not receive the highest scores in the bidding process, Fox News affiliate KRIV-TV reported. 

Hidalgo, seen by many as a rising star in the Texas Democratic Party, has dismissed the scrutiny surrounding the agreement as political gamesmanship.

Fox News has reached out to her office, her attorney, and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. 

The three staff members were part of a committee that selected Elevate Strategies, even though it received lower scores in the bidding process. After interviewing the applicants, the panel unanimously chose the firm, which is owned by Felicity Pereyra, who has previously worked on Democratic campaigns, the Texas Tribune reported. 

Hidalgo eventually canceled the contract amid the criticism, saying it had become politicized.  

Jack Cagle, a Republican county commissioner who began asking questions about the contract last year, said he took “no pleasure in being right about this.”

“This is a major black eye for Harris County,” he tweeted. “Now it’s time for the courts to sort it out.”

In March, the Texas Rangers executed search warrants on Harris County offices, seizing laptops, desktop computers and phones in connection with the investigation. Another search warrant released last week and first reported by KTRK-TV said investigators were looking into the Google accounts of Hidalgo and six senior staff members in her office.

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