Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Friday denied playing a role in a small company based in his hometown being awarded a $300 million contract for hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract in Puerto Rico,” Zinke said in a statement. “Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless.”
Added Zinke: “Only in elitist Washington, D.C., would being from a small town be considered a crime.”
Members of Congress from both parties called for an investigation this week into the contract -- something Zinke says he welcomes.
“I welcome any and all investigations into these allegations, and encourage the Interior Department’s Inspector General to investigate this matter fully,” he said.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority awarded the contract to Whitefish Energy Holdings to help crews restore transmission and distribution lines damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Maria. The two-year-old company had just two full-time employees when the storm hit last month, but says it is contracting with hundreds of workers for the Puerto Rico project.
“Neither myself nor anyone in my office has advocated for this company in any way,” Zinke said. “After the initial contract was awarded, I received a single email from the company, on which I took no action. All records, which are being made available, will prove no involvement.
Maria hit the island on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm, killing more than 50 people and knocking out electricity to the whole island. More than a month later, only 30 percent of customers have power.
Fox News’ John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.