Indicted Hidalgo chief allegedly can't wait full day before breaking bail rules

BySarah Rafique KTRK logo
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Indicted Hidalgo chief allegedly breaking bail rules
Prosecutors accuse an indicted Harris County staffer of violating bond conditions related to a misuse of official information and tampering with a government record case.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Prosecutors allege Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's chief of staff violated bond conditions when he voted to approve the scope of work for a $48 million childcare-related project.

Alex Triantaphyllis is one of the three Harris County staffers accused of steering a multi-million dollar contract to a small, Houston-based firm.

In a court document filed on May 4, prosecutors say a judge ordered four bond conditions for Triantaphyllis, chief of staff for Judge Hidalgo.

Note: An earlier version of this post suggested the court document was filed May 22. It was filed May 4.

One of those conditions set at a hearing on April 12, included that he "not serve on any procurement or contract evaluation committees or in any similar role during the pendency of this case," according to the May 4 filing, which was made public on Wednesday.

The next day, he "represented the Office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on the American Rescue Plan Act Steering Committee Teams meeting, and voted to approve the procurement guidelines and scope of work for the Child Care Capacity: Contracted Slots RFP."

A source familiar with the meeting told 13 Investigates, that during the one-hour meeting, a five-person committee discussed an approximately $48 million program aimed at expanding free childcare for Harris County residents by renting out space in existing childcare facilities.

Triantaphyllis was among the five committee members who voted on April 13 to approve the scope of work for the project and the methods by which it would be scored, which uses COVID-19 recovery funds.

In its motion to report bail condition violations to the court, prosecutors are urging the judge "to determine whether the current bond conditions are sufficient."

Triantaphyllis' attorney Marla Poirot told 13 Investigates that as chief of staff for the judge's office, Triantaphyllis' job involves serving on committees like the one he went to on April 13. She said it is not a conflict for him to be involved in past or potential work discussions.

"The bond conditions set by the judge require that Alex not serve on any RFP or evaluation committee during the pendency of his criminal case. Alex is a member of the ARPA Steering Committee, which is not an RFP or evaluation committee. He has not violated any bond condition," Poirot said in a statement.

SEE ALSO: Harris County senior staffers indicted in $11M contract investigation appear in court

Triantaphyllis, along with Aaron Dunn, then a senior advisor for public safety and emergency management at the county, and Wallis Nader, who is Hidalgo's deputy policy director, were each indicted on one count of misuse of official information and one count of tampering with a government record.

Prosecutors allege the three staffers communicated with Elevate Strategies' Founder Felicity Pereyra in January 2021, and allowed her to review and revise the project's scope of work nearly a month before a bid for proposals was publicly available. She won the nearly $11 million contract but it was later canceled amid the controversy.

After Triantaphyllis, Dunn and Nader were indicted, a judge told all three of them that they can't discuss the case with one another and are also barred from participating in evaluation committees for county contracts.

Their bonds were set at $3,500 each. Triantaphyllis was released on bond on April 12.

Following Triantaphyllis' appearance at court last month, Poirot said, "There's been no wrongdoing. We're glad to be in a fair and objective forum finally. There's been one side of the story released to date and reported on. We're excited to have our side of the story out there."

Dunn's attorney, Derek Hollingsworth, said, "I'm proud to represent a public servant. After listening to the prosecutor's rendition of probable cause, I'm really curious to see how in the world they're going to prove this case, but I stand by my client. He's innocent and we look forward to having our day in court."

Calls to Nader have not been returned and her attorney has declined to comment.

SEE ALSO: Judge Lina Hidalgo responds to indictments of her staffers in $11M contract investigation

In her first on-camera comments after the indictments, Hidalgo told ABC13 last month, "at best, this is going forward with a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts and at worst, it is the weaponization of the criminal justice system for political purposes so I'm not going to play into that. My staffers are hardworking people. They work day and night for the people of Harris County and we've got work to do, like this catalytic converter issue or like childhood education, homelessness, huge wins."

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