The company tasked with repairing Puerto Rico’s power grid and restoring electricity to the island got into a public Twitter spat with the mayor of San Juan Wednesday after she said in an interview that the small Montana firm’s $300 million contract should be voided.
According to Yahoo! News, the online feud ended Wednesday with an apology from Whitefish Energy, but not before the company threatened to cease its work in San Juan over Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s calls for transparency.
Whitefish’s $300 million deal is by far the most expensive contract awarded after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico—a fact that would have raised eyebrows on its own. But, in addition, the tiny, for-profit firm has never taken on a project of this size and, at the time the storm made landfall in Puerto Rico, had only two full-time employees.
The company also has substantial ties to the Donald Trump administration. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is familiar with Whitefish’s CEO (Zinke is from Whitefish, Mont., where the firm is located), and Zinke’s son worked on one of its construction sites. The Daily Beast also found that the energy company is financed by a private-equity firm founded by a Trump campaign donor.
It’s in this context that Mayor Yulín Cruz, in an interview with Yahoo! News, called out the fishiness of the $300 million contract, which was awarded by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
“A proper process which is clear, transparent, legal, moral and ethical should take place,” Yulín Cruz told the online outlet.
After getting wind of Yulín Cruz’s comments, Whitefish Energy released a statement via its Twitter account calling the comments “misplaced.”
“We are making progress and doing work when others are not even here,” Whitefish’s statement continued.
Funny, I thought that was the whole point of securing the contract to restore power to Puerto Rico.
“We find her comments to be very disappointing and demoralizing to the hundreds of people on our team that have left their homes and families and have come here to help the people of Puerto Rico,” Whitefish added.
Yulín Cruz, who is the living embodiment of the “Do not come for me unless I send for you” ethos, didn’t back down.
“If WhiteFish energy feels that asking for transparency is ‘misplaced’, what are they afraid we will find,” Yulín Cruz clapped back on Twitter.
I’d like to pause here and point out that San Juan’s mayor did not throw in the 🤔 emoji even though it was more than implied. Also, please notice that Yulín Cruz didn’t use a question mark—because that shit was not a question.
Whitefish (or whoever runs its Twitter account) must have been shook because what came next was a hot mess.
“We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city and 40 more men just arrived. Do you want us to send them back or keep working?” asked the company, which is getting paid a lot of money to do work on which it bid.
The question, which some viewed as a threat, prompted people, including Yulín Cruz, to question the company’s motives.
“They are threatening not to do their job, which, frankly, is quite irregular for a company hired to the work for the public sector,” she said.
As the New York Daily News noted, Whitefish apologized to the mayor and the people of Puerto Rico for its comments, which the company said “did not represent who we are and how important this work is to help Puerto Rico’s recovery.”
Following widespread backlash to the contract—and to the energy company’s social media comments—Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló shared that he has asked the Office of the Inspector General to conduct “a review of the contracting process of Whitefish Energy.”
Of course, whether anything will come of this “review” remains to be seen—Rosselló’s letter notes that the contract appears to “comply 100% with FEMA regulations.”
It’s not known whether the company that had only two full-time employees a little more than one month ago is now looking for a new social media manager.