The governor of Puerto Rico has told the territory’s electric utility to cancel that $300 million no-bid contract with a teeny-tiny Montana contractor for repairs to the island’s electrical grid. The utility says the controversy over the contract with Whitefish Energy, which was awarded without competitive bidding and included insanely favorable terms for the contractor, had become a distraction from the job of restoring electricity. Especially with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke following all the linemen around demanding his cut.
Unlike Houston and Florida, Puerto Rico had not moved to activate “mutual aid” arrangements with other utilities immediately following Hurricane Maria; instead, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) had awarded a no-bid contract to Whitefish, even though the company had only two full-time employees when the hurricane hit and had never taken on such a large project. But you see, PREPA had Whitefish’s number handy, and a satellite phone, so things just worked out right, and it would be wrong to suggest anything hinky was up just because Whitefish is from Zinke’s home town and Zinke is pals with the CEO, Andy “Yes that’s really my name” Techmanski. Zinke and Techmanski have both denied there was anything untoward, and if you can’t trust the word of a Trump cabinet member, then golly you’re cynical.
Now, a nice biblical forty days after the deluge, (OK, 39, since he announced it yesterday), Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has requested help through mutual aid arrangements with utilities in Florida and New York:
“As a result of the information that has been revealed and the need to protect the public interest, as governor I am asking the power authority to cancel the Whitefish contract immediately,” Rosselló said in a news conference at La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion.
Yr Wonkette will be sure to let you know if any of the utility managers from Florida or New York are named Powerfellow or Gridfixer. Rosselló said he’d talked to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and that there should be up to 1,000 utility workers on the island by November 8.
Not surprisingly, the nice folks of Whitefish Energy were none too pleased at the development, because they were making such terrific progress and enjoyed rolling around in money, too. Whitefish issued a statement saying it was “very disappointed” and that Puerto Rico will be sorry for canceling the contract, yes it will, because it will “only delay what the people of Puerto Rico want and deserve — to have the power restored quickly.” The company pointed out that it had brought 350 workers, lots of equipment, and five helicopters to Puerto Rico, and said it was right in the middle of repairs on a major transmission line that would soon bring power back to a lot of San Juan.
last week when San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said the contract should be voided. fascinating and contradictory stories about how Whitefish got the contract in the first place, Ramos now says maybe the contract should just go away:
The original decision by PREPA to have Whitefish Energy come to the Puerto Rico only sped up the repairs, and if it were not for that action, crews would just now be getting to the island to begin the process of rebuilding the system and restoring power
“There’s a perception risk, a reputation risk and a delay risk in continuing the contract,” he said.
This is the guy who had originally been saying questions about Whitefish’s ability to do the job were just ugly sniping from jealous competitors, and who had been vigorously defending the contract to the Washington Post on Friday.
WaPo also found this charming tidbit about Whitefish’s business practices in pursuing one of its few previous big contracts, a project to repair and upgrade four miles of transmission line in Arizona:
Techmanski’s wife, Amanda, is listed as one of two managers for Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC. She is a registered nurse, records show, and last month she touted on Facebook a new job she was starting as a nurse practitioner.
With Amanda Techmanski as a manager, Whitefish was listed as an “economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business” on a federal Energy Department contract it won in July for a small transmission line repair in Arizona.
So now we can look forward to a lot of people asking why Trump-hating troublemakers want to discriminate against a woman-owned business that’s just trying to break the glass ceiling (and the bank) in hurricane recovery work, why are you people such hypocrites?