Harris County, Texas – The office of Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has issued subpoenas to the five members of the Harris County Commissioners Court regarding a now-cancelled $11 million contract the court issued to create a COVID-19 vaccine outreach program. The subpoenas request 11 months-worth of documents related to the process that led to the contract, which was signed in June and cancelled in September.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who sits on and presides over the Commissioners Court, convened a procurement meeting in March to score four proposals they had received from organizations bidding to carry out the program. Elevate Strategies LLC won the contract over the University of Texas Health Science Center, whose proposal apparently had scored higher and would cost less than the one from Elevate Strategies.
Critics were quick to point out the contradiction and condemn Elevate Strategies as being a one-person company lacking the ability to carry out such a large and expensive program. They also point to the fact that the founder and owner of Elevate Strategies, Felicity Pereyra, worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s 2015 mayoral campaign as evidence that the contract is a vehicle for funneling money to political cronies.
A wave of public criticism and outrage over the potentially corrupt contract led to Hidalgo’s decision to terminate it shortly after it began, though the county had already paid thousands of dollars to Elevate Strategies by that time. Hidalgo claims she ended the contract because it had become too politicized and therefore counterproductive. She has denied any bias in the selection process or any political alliance to Pereyra.
Subpoenas are typically issued when a prosecutor is preparing a case to present to a grand jury, though they do not confirm wrongdoing on their own. None of the members of the Commissioners Court have been asked to testify in person, though it is very likely some or all of them will if the subpoenaed documents do not provide a quick resolution.