Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo called a recent employee pay raise “insanely icky” and said she hopes her colleagues feel ashamed for approving it. 

The dust up came during the most recent Harris County Commissioners Court meeting. At the end of the meeting, Commissioners entered into an executive session to discuss personnel matters, one of which turned out to be the employment of the Harris County Toll Road Authority Executive Director Robert Trevino.

According to Hidalgo, Trevino received a verbal, but unofficial employment offer from the City of Houston. In response, and in an effort to retain Trevino, Commissioner Adrian Garcia moved to reclassify his position to allow him to be paid more. 

Trevino makes $350,000; the move by the court would allow for a 39 percent pay increase. Judge Hidalgo was the lone “no” vote, saying that while she appreciates and values the county’s directors, she couldn’t support giving one director a “40 percent raise overnight.” 

The raise, which passed the court 4-1, brings Trevino’s pay to $485,000, which Hidalgo said was significantly more than other directors are making. 

“I don’t understand how somebody gets a 40 percent raise, how great can they be,” she said, “I hope that all the other department heads ask for a 40 percent increase and I hope you guys are ashamed.” 

As they returned from the executive session, Hidalgo was missing. Without her there, Commissioner Rodney Ellis opened the meeting and attempted to move the raise through before Hidalgo returned. She came in while Garcia was making the motion to reclassify the position and pushed back, questioning why they were trying to start without her when they knew where her office was and how to find her. 

Hidalgo encouraged the media to investigate the pay raise because she said it made no sense to her.

Commissioner Garcia released the following statement in response:

“Director Trevino has done an outstanding job leading HCTRA. From saving Harris County from building a dangerous bridge over the Ship Channel to increasing multi-modal transportation, Director Trevino has proven he’s worth every penny he’s paid, and then some. I repeatedly asked previous leadership at HCTRA about reducing the price of tolls and was always told it was impossible. Director Trevino made it happen.”

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.