|Pedestrians duck under a downed power line in Puerto Rico. (Photo: Angel Valentin, Vox)|
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority took the unusual step of hiring Whitefish and other private companies last month to rebuild the island. Often after disasters, U.S. states activate mutual aid arrangements with other utilities, but it's unclear why Puerto Rico didn't. Congress is scrutinizing the decision to hire Whitefish and others because of concerns about bankrupt Puerto Rico's ability to pay.
Another reason Congress is paying attention: Whitefish, Mont., is the home town of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and he and Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski acknowledge knowing each other--but only because it's a small town where "everybody knows everybody," Zinke's office told The Washington Post. Both Zinke and Techmanski deny that Zinke had any role in scoring the job for Whitefish. The House Committee on Natural Resources is examining Whitefish's hiring because "The size and unknown details of this contract raises numerous questions," committee spokesperson Parish Braden told the Post. "This is one of many things the committee is taking a close look at as it continues to work with the resident commissioner, governor’s office, and oversight board to ensure Puerto Rico’s recovery is robust, effective and sustained."