Whitefish Energy, the tiny two-year-old energy company from the hometown of Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that was awarded a $300 million contract to restore Puerto Rico’s power, is threatening to stop work in San Juan and send its employees packing after the city’s mayor called for their contract to be canceled.
“We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city & 40 more men just arrived. Do you want us to send them back or keep working?” Whitefish Energy tweeted Wednesday from its Twitter account.
We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city & 40 more men just arrived. Do you want us to send them back or keep working?
— Whitefish Energy (@WhitefishEnergy) October 25, 2017
The tweet came in response to Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s request for more transparency about their $300 million contract, which has faced growing scrutiny from members of Congress because of potential conflicts of interest.
“They are threatening not to do their job which frankly is quite irregular for a company hired to the work for the public sector,” Cruz tweeted.
Cruz also accused the company of sexism in their treatment of her.
“You would think I am the only one in the world that has commented on this,” Cruz tweeted. “What is it about women having an opinion that irritates some?”
You would think I am the only one in the world that has commented on this. What is it about women having an opinion that irritates some? pic.twitter.com/XxGNLomjQy
— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) October 25, 2017
Cruz called Wednesday for the company’s contract to be “voided right away,” calling for “a proper process which is clear, transparent, legal, moral and ethical.”
On the day Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory, Whitefish Energy had only two full-time employees and held a resumé which included repairing a few miles of electrical line in Arizona, according to The Washington Post. The company now has 280 workers on the island, a majority of whom are subcontractors.
A former senior official at the Energy Department and state regulatory agencies said it was “odd” that tiny Montana company would be chosen.
“The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why [the utility] would go to Whitefish,” Susan F. Tierney said. “I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up.”
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told Yahoo News that the contract is “alarming.”
“The contract should be voided right away and a proper process which is clear, transparent, legal, moral and ethical should take place,” she continued.
“It seems like what the Puerto Rican people are going to be paying for, or the American people are going to be paying for, is an intermediary that doesn’t know what is at stake here and that really has to subcontract everything. … What we need is somebody that can get the job done and that has the expertise to get the job done.”
In a statement, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said the contract went to Whitefish because it didn’t need money up front, something the island’s struggling utility couldn’t provide.
“Of all those who met the requirements and aggressive schedules to bring brigades, one was asking for a substantial amount of money — which PREPA had no liquidity for — and another did not require it,” he said. “That other one is Whitefish.”
House Democrats have also called for the contract to be investigated.