Lawsuit Filed Against Texas Judge Lina Hidalgo Over Alleged Violation of Election Code

Lawsuit Filed Against Texas Judge Lina Hidalgo Over Alleged Violation of Election Code
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo speaks to the media after a chemical leak at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Splashtown in Spring, Texas, on July 17, 2021. (Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Katabella Roberts
11/29/2023
Updated:
11/29/2023
0:00

A criminal complaint has been filed against Harris County, Texas Judge Lina Hidalgo alleging she violated the state’s election code by using her office to engage in political advertising.

The civil complaint was filed by attorney Mark McCaig earlier this month, according to a letter he shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Nov. 17.

The letter, addressed to Judge Hidalgo, notes that the Texas Ethics Commission has accepted jurisdiction over the complaint.

Mr. McCaig’s complaint alleges that Judge Hidalgo violated the Election Code by “using or authorizing the use of county resources for political advertising” that was broadcast during a Nov. 10 press conference and posted online.

Texas Election Code states that an officer or employee of a political subdivision may not “knowingly spend or authorize the spending of public funds for political advertising.”

An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

Under the Penal Code, misuse of government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant’s custody or possession by virtue of the public servant’s office or employment is considered an “Abuse of Official Capacity” and could be considered a misdemeanor.

Claims of Evidence Tampering

The broadcast in question came as news broke that the Texas Rangers were investigating claims of evidence tampering in a case involving three of Judge Hidalgo’s former staff members, and would be conducting search warrants as part of efforts to locate records that were allegedly concealed amid a probe into an $11 million COVID-19 vaccine outreach contract awarded to a little-known company called Elevate Strategies.
The original probe focused on how her office awarded—and later canceled—the contract to Elevate Strategies amid ethics concerns, according to The Texas Tribune.

Initially, a committee comprised of three members of her staff, alongside two health department employees, had highly rated a bid from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston to conduct the outreach, but the university was eventually sidelined and the contract was instead awarded to Elevate Strategies, headed by Felicity Pereyra, who has previously worked on Democratic campaigns, according to the publication.

The three former staffers—Wallis Nader, Aaron Dunn, and Alex Triantaphyllis—face tampering and misuse of official information charges in relation to the probe regarding the outreach contract issued to the political consulting firm.

Ms. Hidalgo is herself being probed over her alleged participation in the scheme to sideline the university. She and her former staffers have denied the allegations.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg pauses by the casket of George Floyd during a funeral for Floyd, at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas, on June 9, 2020. (David J. Phillip/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg pauses by the casket of George Floyd during a funeral for Floyd, at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas, on June 9, 2020. (David J. Phillip/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

‘Political Gain, Political Benefit’

Speaking during the Nov. 10 press conference that is the focal point of the lawsuit, Ms. Hidalgo accused Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg of using her office “for political gain and political benefit” and “abusing” her office to “conduct political investigations.”

“She abuses the office the people entrusted her with, and the sacred work that people entrusted her with, for political investigations,” Ms. Hidalgo said.

She also said she had spent the day prior to the press conference working on an endorsement for Ms. Ogg’s opponent, Sean Teare, whom she described as a “well-respected, very experienced, strong opponent.”

Her comments were made on county property and live-streamed on the Office of the County Judge’s official social media accounts, but the posts were later removed.

In a statement responding to Ms. Hidalgo’s comments, Ms. Ogg said they were “nothing more than an attempted deflection from the facts and evidence that led to the initial indictment of her staffers” and maintained that her office “pursues evidence-based prosecutions, regardless of political party.”

“She conflated an ongoing Texas Rangers criminal investigation with her political endorsement of my challenger and engaged in a childish exercise in name-calling that has become all too common in our political process,” Ms. Ogg’s statement to multiple publications read. “Using her status as county judge to launch this diatribe is an unfortunate attempt to taint the investigative process and to confuse the public.”

The Epoch Times has contacted Judge Hidalgo’s office for further comment.