Critics were unimpressed on Thursday by an apology issued by Whitefish Energy, the small Montana-based firm that was given a $300 million no-bid contract to restore Puerto Rico’s electricity grid, after it threatened San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz via Twitter.
“Lame” was the word used by Splinter News to describe the company’s apology for insinuating that it would leave Puerto Rico in response to Cruz’s criticism of the contract.
On Wednesday, Cruz joined congressional Democrats and a growing chorus of critics who have raised questions about the company’s contract, which it was offered by the territory’s electricity authority, despite employing only two people full-time when Hurricane Maria knocked out the island’s power on September 20, and having no experience with a project of Puerto Rico’s magnitude.
The firm is financed by a major Trump donor, and its CEO employed the son of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who hails from the town where Whitefish is based.
The mayor, who has criticized the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, called the company’s contract “alarming” in an interview with Yahoo News.
“It seems like what the Puerto Rican people are going to be paying for, or the American people are going to be paying for, is an intermediary that doesn’t know what is at stake here and that really has to subcontract everything,” Cruz said. “What we need is somebody that can get the job done and that has the expertise to get the job done.”
“The contract should be voided right away, and a proper process which is clear, transparent, legal, moral and ethical should take place,” she added.
Whitefish declared the comments “misplaced,” and issued a statement saying Cruz’s criticism was “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.”
Contrary to the tone of the company’s statement, the workers who Whitefish has brought to the island are not volunteers and are in fact being paid hundreds of dollars per hour—well over average rates—for their work.
A more threatening statement from Whitefish later on prompted Cruz to respond.
Critics responded after Whitefish apologized and said its earlier tweet did not “represent who we are.”