In a joint press conference, outgoing Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced that the Texas Attorney General’s Office would be “assuming jurisdiction” over the public corruption cases of three staff members to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

The news was made official a week after former Harris County prosecutor Lauren Byrne posted the rumor on X saying, “Apparently [Kim Ogg] is in talks with [Attorney General Ken Paxton] Office re: stepping in to prosecute the former staffers of Lina Hidalgo that are pending in Harris County. No firm agreement or parameters yet.” 

“Unfortunately locally elected prosecutors like myself face enormous challenges … because political retaliation is very real,” Ogg said. “The Office of Attorney General has sufficient resources to properly prosecute cases of this magnitude and importance to the public.” 

The investigation is based on an $11 million COVID outreach contract awarded to Elevate Strategies, then to a one-person firm owned by Felicity Peraryra, a Democrat operative. The firm was awarded the contract in 2021, beating out bigger and better-equipped competitors and spurring questions about the bidding process. Three of Judge Hidalgo’s staff members, accused of helping steer the contract to Pereyra, ultimately received felony charges for misusing official information and tampering with a governmental record. 

Ogg said she intended to prosecute the cases, but since she lost her re-election campaign and the Democrat nominee for her office has made statements indicating that the charges were baseless, she felt the Attorney General’s office would be the best agency to prosecute the cases. The nominee, Sean Teare, has publicly said, if elected, he would recuse the District Attorney’s office and ask another prosecutor to handle the cases. 

In response to the press conference, Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis issued the following statement:

Our outgoing District Attorney’s decision to hand over the Elevate Strategy case to Ken Paxton is a new low for Kim Ogg. The future of three young public servants, which were already derailed by this political witch-hunt, has now been handed over to a hyper-partisan office with an ax to grind.

Ultimately, I’m just saddened for these young people who have become collateral damage in this political gamesmanship. My heart goes out to them.

While not in attendance, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued the following statement: “Our prosecutors and investigators are the best in the State. They handle every case with utmost professionalism. In this case, as in all others, we will seek truth and justice.”

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.