Attorney who recommended signing Whitefish contract removed from position
SAN JUAN – On Thursday evening, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa), Ricardo Ramos, dismissed Legal Affairs Director Javier Morales Tañón and the head of the Transmission and Distribution Division, engineer Edgardo Rivera Alvarado, from their politically appointed postitions of trust.
Morales Tañón is who on Oct. 17 signed the legal opinion on which Ramos and Prepa’s governing board based their decision to enter into a contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings that could eventually reach $300 million. That same contract was used as a model for the contracting Cobra Acquisitions. Both documents had to be amended following complaints from federal and state officials because they included clauses with incorrect and contradictory information.
In a WKAQ radio interview, Ramos confirmed that the officials are no longer serving their posts, but denied that the action had to do with the Whitefish scandal.
The legal opinion signed by Morales Tañón states that the contract amendment signed Oct. 17 establishes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized the contract, detailed the amounts to be paid and that those costs were not to be audited by federal or state authorities and “that it complies with all applicable legal provisions.”
“This first amendment was drafted in collaboration with the firm Greenberg-[Traurig] LLP, so that said contract includes and complies with all the contractual provisions required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and which seeks that the federal agency reimburse the [Electric Power] Authority all monies paid to Whitefish under this contract,” reads the opinion issued the same day the contract was signed.
The document also requests that the utility’s governing board ratify the initial master agreement and authorize $3.2 million “already disbursed” for the company’s mobilization on Oct. 4.
According to contract registry of the Comptroller’s Office, Greenberg Traurig has three contracts with the government that total $11 million. None of them are with Prepa.
Regarding Rivera Alvarado, Ramos said in the interview that the official was making political decisions.
“Rivera [Alvarado] is an excellent engineer, what happened is that in the execution part we were having some differences that were affecting the Puerto Rico energization plan and I took him out of the trust position,” Ramos said.
Immediately after, he hinted that Rivera Alvarado was using partisan criteria when hiring retired personnel to help in the emergency work to restore the energy service.
“There aren’t enough retirees and we have had to hire retirees from all types of political parties. We are focused on restoring electricity to the country. It’s no time for politics to come in to these situations, it’s not the time, elections are in three years. We have to finish this in December. Anyone who is delaying the process, I’ll remove,” he said.
Ramos said that Rivera Alvarado and Morales Tañón will return to their career positions in the public corporation.
At this time, PREPA is generating just over 36% of the energy it usually produces, but it still can not establish precisely how many customers have electricity.