Harris Co. Judge 'flip-flops' in constable defunding debate
HOUSTON - Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has responded angrily to those who contend she and the Democratic majority on Commissioners Court stripped local Constables of millions of dollars they'd saved in their departmental "rollover" accounts.
"It is a lie de-funding and you are hurting our law enforcement," said Hidalgo at an August 17 press event.
Despite the "de-funding" protests of front line peace officers overwhelmed by an ongoing crime wave, the money was clawed back.
"We can not afford to have these savings accounts. We can't. We have to spend the money on the rise in violent crime," said Hidalgo in July 2021 before voting to take the funds.
Turns out, that forced transfer of more than $20 million in Constable savings represents a 180 degree reversal of a public pledge Hidalgo made in open court on December 9, 2019.
"I would hate to punish the departments that have been saving as opposed to forcing themselves to spend down at the end of the year, so I would fundamentally want to preserve that and not punish folks who have been able to make savings," said Hidalgo.
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FOX 26 asked Judge Hidalgo for an explanation of the "flip-flop," but she has yet to respond.
In the meantime, Texas Comptroller Glen Hegar has ruled the claw back of constable savings by Harris County, constitutes "de-funding" as defined by the State Legislature under Senate Bill 23.
And while Hidalgo wasn't responding, her Republican opponent, Alex Mealer, was.
"I think that video is exactly why people don't like politicians, say one thing, do another. Crime didn't just become an issue, and the fact that they waited this long, what else is that except political pandering," said Mealer.
MORE: Constables claim Harris County defunded more than $4 million from their agencies
FOX 26 has learned that when Hidalgo and her allies voted to take back the surplus funds of county departments, exceptions were made.
According to a March 20, 2021 letter authored by County Administrator Dave Berry, the county judge and commissioners were exempt from the "rollover" rule.