Harris County COVID contract scandal: Texas AG takes over Harris County bid-rigging case

The Texas Attorney General's Office has assumed jurisdiction over the alleged bid-rigging scandal concerning an $11 million contract awarded to Elevate Strategies for a COVID-19 vaccine outreach program, allegedly involving the Harris County Judge's office. 

"Our prosecutors and investigators are the best in the State. They handle every case with utmost professionalism. In this case as in all others, we will seek truth and justice," said Attorney General Paxton.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg says the objective of this takeover is to ensure a fair and impartial investigation into the matter and to uphold the public's trust in government institutions.

"The reason I’m taking this action is to safeguard the public’s interest and trust in our government," Ogg said. 

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Key stakeholders, including District Attorney Kim Ogg and the Texas Rangers, have been involved in the ongoing probe, which gained momentum following initial inquiries by FOX 26 Houston and a subsequent five-month grand jury investigation. Felony charges have been brought against three individuals linked to Judge Lina Hidalgo's inner circle: Aaron Dunn, Wallis Nader, and Alex Triantaphyllis.


Aaron Dunn (L), Alex Triantaphyllis (C), and Wallis Nader (R) are facing felony criminal indictments over a controversial multimillion-dollar contract.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released a statement on X saying, "I'm not surprisedat all, just even more disappointed. DA Ogg showed us months ago the political nature of her work when she secretly hired the general counsel of the Texas Republican Party as the lead prosecutor- all during my re-election. True to form, the DA still has only baseless claims and now she wants to keep the story alive by handing her case to Ken Paxton, who routinely targets me and Harris County. In her parting days, DA Ogg has sealed her legacy by sending this vendetta to somebody who is constantly engaged in political attacks against me and Harris County. I've said from the beginning that this is political in nature and what she did just underscores the point."

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis said, "Our outgoing District Attorney’s decision to hand over the Elevate Strategies case to Ken Paxton is a new low for Kim Ogg. The future of three young public servants, who were already derailed by this political witch hunt, has now been handed over to a hyper-partisan office with an axe to grind. Giving Ken Paxton the opportunity to undermine Harris County, yet again, is just another feather in Ken Paxton’s cap and red meat for his MAGA base. The voters overwhelmingly rejected this sort of behavior by Kim Ogg in March by historic margins, and this is the culmination of a career that will be remembered more for vindictive political investigations than advancing public safety. Ultimately, I’m just saddened for these young people who have become collateral damage in this political gamesmanship. My heart goes out to them."

Sean Teare, the Democratic candidate for Harris County District Attorney, said in a statement, "By a three to one margin, voters rejected the politicized way that our prosecutor’s office has been run. Unfortunately, Kim Ogg ignored the voters and called a press conference to attack her opponents and make clear that fighting political feuds is more important than finishing her term ensuring justice for victims across our county. I have been clear from day one: we must restore integrity to the DA’s Office. Even though I’ve never had any involvement in this case, I have promised to immediately recuse myself and refer this case to another District Attorney to ensure it receives fair and impartial treatment. These cases were tainted from the beginning, the second they hired the Republican Party’s general counsel to lead the investigation. Now, they are being handed over to the most political prosecutor in the state, who will work in tandem with a politically motivated DA. Throughout my campaign, I emphasized the need to remove politics from the District Attorney's Office. If I were in office, I would have advocated for an independent review by a DA's office with no connections to the parties involved to ensure transparency and fairness. It's crucial that cases of public importance are handled with the utmost integrity and without any hint of political influence. The people of Harris County deserve a criminal justice system that prioritizes truth and justice above political interests. I remain committed to upholding these principles and working towards a system that is free from political malfeasance."

Dan Simons, the GOP candidate who will be running against Sean Teare in the November election for the Harris County DA position, said, "I applaud the Harris County District Attorney, Kim Ogg, for referring the public corruption cases of former County Judge, Lina Hidalgo staffers, to the State of Texas Attorney General. It is clear that my opponent, by his actions to cover-up his own conflicts of interest in these cases, seeks to undermine the administration of justice for his own political power. No one is above the law and public corruption eats at the very fabric of our democracy. The citizens of Harris County deserve a District Attorney that will administer justice equally, despite political pressures. I will restore integrity, honesty and transparency to the DA’s Office, balancing the scales of justice for all." 


 - August 17, 2021   Serious questions emerge around $11 million Harris County COVID-19 contract

- August 29, 2021  Contract controversy raises voices in County Commissioners Court- What's Your Point?

- September 8, 2021  Harris County Judge to seek cancelation of controversial $11M contract 

- September 14, 2021 Harris County Commissioners unanimously vote to cancel controversial $11m contract 

- November 16, 2021  Controversial contract triggers subpoenas aimed at Harris County leaders

- March 11, 2022 Texas Rangers execute search warrant for information about controversial Harris Co. contract

- March 22, 2022 Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo grilled following "bid rigging" allegations

- April 11, 2022 3 Harris County Judge staffers named in felony indictments

-May 19, 2022  Harris Co. DA Kim Ogg warns Judge Lina Hidalgo about misstatements, hiding evidence

- November 9, 2023 Search warrants reveal new details in Harris County COVID contract scandal