Monday, October 30, 2017

Puerto Rico deal with small-town electric contractor is canceled, and under investigation

After widespread controversy, Puerto Rico is canceling a $300 million contract with a small Montana company to repair some of the hurricane-devastated island's electrical grid, and The Wall Street Journal reports that the FBI is investigating the deal with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

Andrew Scurria writes that agents "are looking into circumstances surrounding the disaster-recovery deal the public-power monopoly known as Prepa signed with Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC," based in the northern Montana town of the same name.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is from Whitefish, but insists he had nothing to do with the contract. "Only in elitist Washington, D.C., would being from a small town be considered a crime," he said in a statement on Oct. 27. News of the deal broke nationally on Oct. 24, but it was first reported Oct. 21 by The Flathead Beacon in nearby Kalispell.

Questions about the contract go beyond connections, The Washington Post reports. Whitefish was not required to provide proof that it would complete the work it promised, and the two-year-old company has only two employees. Whitefish CEO Andrew Techmanski said the company's structure allowed it to hire subcontractors quickly.

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