back to top

Puerto Rico's Governor Is Calling For An Audit Of The Contract Awarded To A Two-Person Energy Company

Puerto Rico's Office of Management and Budget, FEMA, and a congressional committee are also reviewing the controversial contract.

Originally posted on
Updated on

Puerto Rico's governor on Wednesday asked for yet another review of a controversial contract awarded to Whitefish Energy, a two-person company from Montana that was awarded a $300 million contract to restore the island's electric infrastructure.

The company, whose Montana address leads to a log-and-stone cabin and an RV, has ties to President Trump's Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former resident of Whitefish and an acquaintance of the company's CEO Andy Techmanski.

The lucrative deal was signed with no bidding process, and has raised multiple questions about how the decision to award the contract came about. Both company officials and the Department of Interior have said Zinke played no role in securing the contract.

On Wednesday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló asked John Roth, inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, to review the contract.

He solicitado a la Oficina del Inspector General de EU que realice auditoría del proceso de contratación de Whitefi… https://t.co/etqXq8mc3r

In the letter, Rosselló also referenced a call with attorneys and officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who said the contract "appeared to comply 10% with FEMA regulations." Officials, however, were continuing to obtain information on the contract procurement. The Puerto Rico's Office of Management and Budget is also reviewing the contract to make sure it adheres to Puerto Rico laws.

Rosselló's request would add yet another government agency to review the contract with the Montana company. The House Committee on Natural Resources is also looking into the deal.

The contract has drawn criticism from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz who, on Twitter, not only raised questions on how the contract was obtained, but the benefits obtained by the company and its contractors in the deal.

Advertisement

@Wojciehowicz @WhitefishEnergy The qnswer is simple...

Yulín Cruz, an outspoken critic of the Trump administration and its handling of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, ended up arguing publicly with the company on Twitter; after she asked for transparency in the contract, the company responded by suggesting it would remove the 44 employees working at the time in San Juan.

Ken Luce, a spokesman for Whitefish Energy, told the Los Angeles Times that its response to withdraw its workers from San Juan was not a threat, but instead telling the mayor what would happen if the contract were voided.

"If we were to leave, the number of people in that tweet would not be working. That's a simple fact," Luce told the paper.

He also accused Yulín Cruz of "playing politics."

"We're getting stuff done," he told the Los Angeles Times. "People can question the contract, but they can't question that we're getting stuff done."

Hours later Wednesday night, the company tweeted a statement at Yulín Cruz and all of Puerto Rico, apologizing for the earlier tweet suggesting they would remove their workers from the city.

.@CarmenYulinCruz and everyone in Puerto Rico...

Yulín Cruz did not respond to it as of Wednesday night, but she did noticeable retweet an activist in Puerto Rico who asked the company if they planned to remove the earlier tweet, and also tweeted at the company, "Too little, too late."

Gov. Rosselló has asked the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general to complete the review by Oct. 30.

Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Salvador Hernandez at salvador.hernandez@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.