Indicted Hidalgo staffer wants Ogg booted from criminal case

Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Indicted Hidalgo staffer wants Ogg booted from criminal case
Indicted county staffer claims Harris County DA acted after county commissioners didn't meet request to "vastly expand the District Attorney's budget."

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Lawyers for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's indicted Chief of Staff Alex Triantaphyllis want District Attorney Kim Ogg off the criminal case.

In a court filing Wednesday, Triantaphyllis' attorneys claim Ogg acted after county commissioners didn't meet the DA's funding requests to "vastly expand the District Attorney's budget."

In a Motion to Disqualify, lawyers Marla Poirot and Dan Cogdell told the judge in the case, "Ogg opened a grand jury investigation into Judge Hidalgo and her staff merely because the Commissioners Court decided to allocate funds to programs and priorities other than the District Attorney's Office."

The motion cites a "months-long high public feud with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo" over DA funding, and bail reform among others, claiming it motivated by politics.

"Despite claiming to be a Democrat, Ogg has aligned herself with her former Republican colleagues in retaliation against Judge Hidalgo. Ogg's unprofessional conduct violates a slew of prosecutorial ethical rules and norms, and wastes taxpayers' funds in the process," according to the filing.

The cases against Hidalgo's staffers center around an $11 million COVID outreach contract awarded to Elevate Strategies - a small Houston based firm - in June 2021. Prosecutors allege the trio of staffers "steered" the contract to Elevate and lied about it on official county forms.

It may not be the political intrigue in the motion that creates the most headaches for the DA -- those could be made by the hiring of a former assistant county attorney to work on the prosecution team.

The motion states the DA hired Barbara Armstrong in November 2020, just weeks after she left the county attorney's office where the motion claims, "members of Commissioners Court and their staff were her 'clients.'" The motion says it is a violation of the accused's due process rights "when a prosecutor targets someone she previously worked for."

Armstrong , according to the motion, advised Commissioners Court at a time when Elevate Strategies was hired as a subcontractor to do Census outreach work. The motion does not mention the fact she was gone by the time the COVID-19 contract in question was considered, but claim the two deals are "inextricably linked." Armstrong could not be reached for comment.

"Her (DA Ogg) conflicts of interest are blatant and numerous," the motion reads. "They are individually and collectively disqualifying. This Court should exercise its authority under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure by appointing a conflict-free attorney pro tem to take Ogg's place in this matter."

It comes just weeks after their boss, Hidalgo, dismissively tweeted about a special prosecutor.

"I expect this political exercise to continue through Election Day. She'll have me indicted," Hidalgo tweeted on May 18. "Or name a "special prosecutor"-an illusion of independence since those are still beholden to the DA. She did that before in a political prosecution that went nowhere. I'm not deterred."

The motion recites months of Harris County political back and forth, at one point accusing Ogg of leaking grand jury information; at another referencing that "Ogg was spotted conferring with (former Harris County Judge Republican Ed) Emmett two months before news of the grand jury investigation broke publicly."

The motion claims Emmett bragged about having insider knowledge of the investigation.

Triantaphyllis is one of three indicted Hidalgo staffers. He, Wallis Nader and Aaron Dunn (who since moved to the Harris County Flood Control District) have all been indicted on felony document tampering and misuse of official information charges.

Nader has filed a similar motion. Dunn has not joined either motion.

"The motion identifies key points that demonstrate this is a political exercise. As we've said, this case is without merit," Hidalgo's campaign spokesperson, Toni Harrison, said.

In a statement, the Harris County DA's Office said, "We will be filing a response in a timely manner to address the multiple inaccuracies in this motion. We look forward to addressing this in a court of law."

This is developing story and will be updated.