Legislation Introduced After County Judge Contracts with Questionable Company over Vaccination Statuses

Harris County Judge, Lina Hidalgo | Image by Cody Duty

State of Texas Representative Jacey Jetton introduced legislation on Oct. 4 that will prevent County Health Departments from sharing vaccination and immunization information with third-party vendors. The bill, called House Bill 120, was written after Fox26 broke the news earlier this year that officials in Harris County awarded an $11 million contract to a company with ties to the Democratic Party.

According to Jetton’s office, the legislation they introduced is necessary following the public disclosure that a contract related to Covid-19 outreach efforts was awarded to Elevate Strategies, LLC. The company had a brief history of being run by a sole individual from a Montrose apartment. Fox News discovered that Elevate was not the winner of the bidding process, but was the second runner-up. The University of Texas Health Science Center was initially awarded the contract at $7 million.

The County Commissioners Court that awarded the contract was headed by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. Public records show that the initial report found that traditional financial fitness requirements had been waived to allow the contract to be awarded to Elevate Strategies. Following the decision by the Court to award the contract to UT, a separate committee was formed that determined that UT was not eligible due to issues with an ongoing project.

Original reporting uncovered that the committee overruling the award to UT was made up of supporters of Hidalgo’s, including her Chief of Staff, Alex Triantaphyllis. Additional investigations discovered that subcontractors working through Elevate Strategies had heavy ties to the National Democratic Party, with at least 12 being identified as having worked for Democratic campaigns or organizations supporting Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.

In late August a heated Commissioners Court meeting resulted in Hidalgo calling Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle “a liar.”

“You accused me of telling a lie by describing this as a one-woman shop. I have the current website of Elevate Strategies and when it says company size, I quote, ‘myself only’,” Cagle said. No resolution was made at the August meeting, but the decision to re-vote on the contract was promised to come up at the Sept. 14 meeting. Hidalgo canceled the contract before the meeting while claiming that nothing improper was going on.

“I have no personal interest nor political interest in any of this,” Hidalgo stated at the August meeting. A spokesperson for her office later issued a statement denying any personal profiteering or improper handling of the contract by the County Judge.

The introduced legislation would bar Health Departments from sharing most information with third-party vendors, including data that includes who is unvaccinated.

“Texans expect and deserve privacy with their medical records,” said Jetton in a press release introducing the bill. “My constituents want peace of mind, knowing their elected officials and government agencies will not share their medical information with any group outside of their healthcare provider. I filed HB 120 to ensure governments protect sensitive medical documents.”

According to Jetton’s office, current Texas law allows county health authorities to disclose vaccination and immunization records to healthcare providers and any third party they are contracted with, even if the third party is not the individual’s healthcare provider.

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