Harris County paid vendor $1.4M after controversial COVID contract canceled

More disturbing questions have emerged surrounding the controversial $11 million COVID-19 communication contract, which has already triggered the criminal indictment of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's chief of staff and two members of her inner circle for an alleged "bid-rigging" scheme.

The latest concern involves the $1.4 million paid to Elevate Strategies owner Felicity Pereyra immediately after the contract's cancellation last September.

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"It was clear they couldn't have provided $1.4 million in services over the course of a few weeks," said longtime, Houston columnist and FOX 26 contributor Bill King.

King calculates Elevate Strategies billed Harris County an average of $41,000 a day before the deal was abandoned and taxpayers have little, if anything, to show for it.

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King says the sheer speed with which Pereyra was ultimately paid is reason for serious question and potentially investigation.

"There are just red flags, just a mountain full of them, on top of this deal, waving in the wind. This is just not the way the county does business," said King.

And while Harris County gives vendors a full month to submit invoices for work completed prior to a contract's cancelation, King's concerns have drawn the rapt attention of Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey, who says the taxpayers deserve better accountability.

"I will be bringing this up in the next court in terms of public transparency. Because we have a real transparency problem in terms of communicating why we did what we did, and particularly after the fact," said Ramsey.

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Neither Judge Hidalgo nor Pereyra's attorney immediately answered FOX 26's request for comment.

The Harris County Attorney's office is seeking to claw back the $1.4 million paid to Elevate Strategies. It's a process which is still, reportedly, ongoing.