Liberal judge gets partisan approval to oust cops, opting for a private security firm with a rented PO box
Whether it was the draconian measure she implemented for Harris County (which is the 3rd most populated county in the country) and its nearly 5 million residents, or her light on crime bail reform policies, or even her making even a funeral service for a fallen sheriff’s deputy all about her, she has been ruffling feathers in the Houston-area law enforcement community for her entire tenure.
Why would she stop now?
Since her 2019 election, security for the 31 year old has been provided by Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen’s office and his deputy constables. Now, the County Commissioner’s Court voted to allow a budget allocation of $121,524 for the first 3 months to hire a private security firm to replace the law enforcement team.
The vote was split down party lines 3-2, with only Republicans Jack Cagle and Tony Ramsey opposing the move.
There’s still lots of questions…https://t.co/YzjGAXUZ1f
— Tom Ramsey (@TomSRamsey2) April 28, 2022
So, what changed in 2022?
First, Constable Alan Rosen is one of the many elected officials in the county that has consistently been at odds with the judge.
In her recent re-election campaign, she was opposed by Rosen’s Chief of Staff, Erica Davis in the Democratic primary in March.
Whether the move was out of spite is unclear.
What is clear is that Harris County taxpayers are picking up the tab for XMi Protection to provide one armed close protection security agent for the judge, with the ability to increase the team size based on “identified need”, according to the Houston Chronicle.
These private agents will be paid up to $60 an hour up to 84 hours per week. For those keeping score at home, that means that Hidalgo is receiving this protection 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. That totals $60,480 over the first 90-day period.
They will also have rental vehicles and gas covered. It is hard to imagine that these two items, along with other reimbursable expenses will eat up the other $60K.
Hidalgo is the first woman and the first person of Latin descent to hold the position. She is also the first one to maintain a security detail.
“I cannot tell you the number of threats, comments, that go beyond the pale, beyond the standard of disgruntled community members, that my staff and myself have received, especially since issues became overly politicized in the recent months and years,” Hidalgo said at a court meeting last August.
“It’s very clear that security, broadly speaking, particularly in the unfortunate political environment we’re in, is something that’s necessary for the institution, as opposed to ad hoc for one elected official or the other.”
She did not expand on why she believed that politics were “overly politicized.”
Hidalgo addressed the move, saying that it was necessary because the Commissioner’s Court was moving forward with a plan to “institutionalize” security to a group under the control of the court.
The group they landed on to handle the security for the county judge going forward?
The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office.
According to the court, they arrived at that decision after “deciding the security detail would be best situated under an appointed official, instead of an elected one, for the sake of ‘consistency’ and preventing conflicts of interest. The fire marshal reports to Commissioners Court, unlike other county law enforcement agencies.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter that the Fire Marshal’s office is not a law enforcement agency with the necessary tools, experience and certification to provide security, they just want to have control, which they do not have if it is provided by the sheriff’s office or a constable, as both of those entities are elected.
“Why is the fire marshal involved in security? That doesn’t make sense to me,” Cagle said.
It could be surmised that the judge and those around her do not want law enforcement around her given the ongoing investigation into her office regarding vaccine outreach contracts. While Hidalgo has not yet been charged, three of her aides have been indicted on felony charges over the incident.
Hidalgo has claimed there was no improprieties in the selection process that landed those services in the “hands of a politically-connected vendor” by providing her early access to the Request for Proposal.
Commissioner Cagle is pointing to those allegations with the awarding of this contract.
He alluded to the fact that the company seems to have recently formed.
Given the cost of the security detail, state law requires government entities to go out for competitive bids for any project or services totaling more than $50,000.
The county purchasing office says that the awarding of three months to XMi is a stopgap as they get the necessary documents on the street to issue the competitive bid, which is allowable by Texas procurement law.
But there are many who believe that the stop gap would have been to continue using the Constable’s office, given their 3-year relationship.
“Why a public company?” Ramsey said about the new security deal. “Why a no-bid contract? Why the urgency?
This isn’t about the judge. This isn’t about her security. Why couldn’t we use constables? Why couldn’t we use Harris County Sheriff’s deputies? We have a lot of options other than a private company with a P.O. Box.”
KHOU 11 reports:
“XMi is a brand new company that lists its address as a suite in a Spring area shopping center. But it actually appears to be a mailbox inside a shipping store.”
Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo’s new security detail (hired through a no-bid contract) appears to be based in a mailbox at this shipping store. Just one 🚩 says a commissioner while Hidalgo says all is legit. More: @KHOU at 6:00. Background: https://t.co/tH9K4S8wca #khou11 pic.twitter.com/4z6Pc0p2a0
— Jason Miles (@JMilesKHOU) April 27, 2022
The owner of XMi Protection is Cortez Richardson. According to his LinkedIn profile, XMi launched earlier this month, which plays into Cagle’s point.
Richardson appears to have retired in December of 2018 after 20 years as a member of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of the Inspector General.
He spent the 10 years prior to that as a member of different law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma.
However, there appears to be a few holes in his profile.
Information in his ‘About’ section doesn’t exactly match with his ‘Experience’ section,’ shown below (italics added).
“Experienced Private Investigator with a demonstrated history of working in the security, personal protection, and investigations industry. Experienced Federal Air Marshal. Skilled in Criminal Investigations, Writing, Organized Crime Investigation, Fraud Investigations, and Private Investigations. Strong military and protective services professional with a Bachelor of Science focused in Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services from Southern Nazarene University.”
There is no mention in his work experience of time spent as a federal air marshal. Aside from the roughly four weeks that XMi has been open, there is no reference to protection services. And the “strong military” professional stems from the 4 years he spent in the US Air Force nearly 30 years ago.
However, there is a gap between his 2018 retirement and his private investigative self-employment starting 9 months ago, it is possible that the past 3 years have been spent as a 1099 contractor in the private security industry.
The award of the contract to a firm with less than one month in business in such a hasty manner does leave many in Harris County wondering if the judge and the Commissioner’s Court are toeing the line of legality and corrupt or unethical practices on this one.
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