The Texas Rangers were called in Friday to search the offices of Harris County officials in connection with an investigation into possible corruption linked to a contract to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.
“A judge signed search warrants, which are legal authorization to search for and seize potential evidence of a crime,” said Dane Schiller with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. “Out of fairness for all parties involved, we have no additional comment at this time.”
Last year, the Harris County Commissioners Court approved a $10.9 million community vaccine outreach contract with a vendor called Elevate Strategies.
Elevate Strategies has links to the Democratic-linked law firm of Perkins Coie, Voter Participation Center, Every Town Gun Safety and Community Justice Action Fund, but not much experience in the health sector, according to Just the News.
The contract raised eyebrows and was eventually canceled.
Commissioner Jack Cagle, a Republican, had opposed the deal.
“It smelled from day one,” Cagle said Friday, according to KHOU-TV. “I trust that the Texas Rangers are going to do their due diligence to make sure what all the facts are and all the shenanigans that went along with it.”
Ashlee McFarlane, Hadalgo’s personal lawyer said the search was “nothing but political theater since the devices would have been provided on request. What’s missing is any shred of evidence, but what’s in abundance is politics.”
One commentator noted that more than politics must be involved.
“On one level it certainly is [a big deal] because search warrants do not issue unless a magistrate concludes there has likely been a crime committed,” legal analyst Brian Wice said, according to KPRC-TV.
“I think there were some eyes rolling and some heads shaking because this bid did not seem to be either economically sound or morally sound on multiple levels,” Wice said.
The search will yield fodder for two Republicans running in a May 24 primary for Harris County judge, both of whom hope to compete against Hidalgo, a Democrat, in November.
“Time and time again, we see that Lina Hidalgo prioritizes political patronage over the interests of Harris County. This is shameful behavior by our County Judge. It shouldn’t take subpoenas to force Lina Hidalgo to tell the truth about an $11 million contract given to a political crony,” candidate Alexandra del Moral Mealer said, according to KHOU-TV.
“After months of withholding evidence while under a criminal investigation, Lina Hidalgo’s office is being raided by law enforcement including Texas Rangers and have seized boxes of documents and evidence on the Elevate Strategies case where Lina awarded an $11 million contract to her political crony,” candidate Vidal Martinez said.
“To restore confidence in our county government, we once again call on Lina Hidalgo to resign immediately. As a former federal prosecutor and international attorney, I have spent decades handling national and worldwide investigations on corruption, and as County Judge, I will ferret out corruption at Commissioner’s Court.”