In the wake of Hurricane Maria that made a landfall in Puerto Rico in September knocking its power grid down, a small Montana firm with deep connections within the Republican Party charged the struggling Puerto Rican energy utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), $319 per hour for every line worker, but paid those workers just $63 per hour.
Last month, Whitefish Energy Holdings made the headlines for being a 2-employee firm which was granted a $300-million-dollar contract to get the power back on the tiny island.
Meanwhile, the firm hired Florida subcontractors and paid them on average $63 per hour. But it charged PREPA five times more per worker. What’s more, a local worker would have done the job for a fraction of the wage.
The New York Times was the first to report the ‘shocking’ issue.
A spokesperson for the Montana-based company told the newspaper that they had to hike the hourly wages to entice skilled line workers to come to Puerto Rico
“We have to pay a premium to entice the labor to come to Puerto Rico to work,”
The spokesman declined to clarify where the difference between what Whitefish charged PREPA and what it actually paid its workers went to. San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Julín Cruz sued Whitefish and dismantled the federal contract over lack of transparency.
It is worth noting that the Montana firm is just two years old and has just two full-time employees. Its headquarters are in Whitefish, Montana, which happens to be the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown. Zinke and the company’s CEO, Andy Techmanski, reportedly know each other, but the firm explained that in a small town like Whitefish “everybody knows everybody”.
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