On Thursday, the same day U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Corey Booker (D-NJ) appeared in court as witnesses to defend colleague Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) on bribery and corrupt government contract charges, a similar case is brewing in Washington D.C. Since Thursday - spilling into Friday - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his team has denied he played any role in a start-up from his hometown getting a huge deal to restore lights to Puerto Rico.
Friday most of Puerto Rico's 3.4 million residents still have no electricity -- more than a month after Hurricane Maria made landfall. The recovery efforts could get dragged out as people question why the Whitefish Montana newbie received a $300 million contract to restore energy to the island. Both Zinke and Whitefish Energy deny ties to each other, and FEMA wants no part of the deal.
The problem is, FEMA says it has not approved the contract, putting at risk millions of federal grant money to pay for the work. Reportedly Whitefish has gone from two employees to more than 200 since receiving the contract. So who will sign those checks?
FEMA is concerned it is not getting the best price for the deal and that Whitefish did not abide by "federal requirements for grantee procurement." FEMA wrote in a statement:
Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable....
Any language in any contract between PREPA (Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority) and Whitefish that states FEMA approved that contract is inaccurate.
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