Puerto Rico gov’t to provide Whitefish documents per creditor request
SAN JUAN – The Government of Puerto Rico agreed Tuesday to provide documentation related to the contract between the Electric Power Authority (Prepa) and Whitefish Energy Holdings, as requested by a group of creditors as part of the bankruptcy process under Title III of Promesa.
On Oct. 30, the offical committee of unsecured creditors asked federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain to authorize them to carry out discovery on the bidding, negotiation and contracting process between the government and the Montana-based firm. The petition was later joined by other creditors of the public corporation.
On Tuesday, government lawyers notified the court that they are willing to submit the same documents sent last week to the House Natural Resources Committee.
During a congressional hearing Tuesday as well, the House committee’s chairman, Rob Bishop (R-Utah), said the information received from Prepa raised further questions about the transaction with Whitefish, adding he regretted that the utility’s executive director, Ricardo Ramos, did not show up for the hearing despite having been cited.
In its motion, the government indicated that once the creditor committee evaluates the initial documentation, it would meet with the group to determine the next steps, including any additional requests for information.
The federal court will hold a hearing Nov. 13 to discuss the request of the fiscal control board to validate its appointment of Noel Zamot as Prepa’s chief transformation officer. The administration of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares opposes the move and will defend his position in court.
It is expected that Judge Judith Dein, who assists Judge Swain in Title III cases and is tasked with the Whitefish contract discovery request, will address the motion during the Nov. 13 hearing.
In its initial motion Oct. 30, the creditor committee says one of the reasons it requested an investigation into the Whitefish contract is that the transaction may have been the result of “political favoritism.”
Saying it can’t confirm allegations in the controversy surrounding the contract, the motion adds the committee is concerned about reports that Elías Sánchez Sifonte, the former representative of the governor to the fiscal board, lobbied Prepa to hire Whitefish.
Then, on Nov. 3, Sánchez Sifonte filed an action to remove his name from the motion, calling the reference “scandalous” and “completely false.” Along with his motion, the former government reprensative presented a sworn statement saying that neither he nor any of his family members participated directly or indirectly in the contracting process with Whitefish and that the same applies to Cobra Energy and Mammoth Energy, other grid-repair firms hired by Prepa.
Recently, the committee amended its motion to add a line stating that Sánchez Sifonte rejected the accusations made against him and that they were part of the newspaper article to which reference was made.
However, the creditor group insisted on rejecting Sánchez Sifonte’s motion to strike, stating that his petition does not meet the requirements to grant the remedy it seeks from the court.
If at the conclusion of the investigation Sánchez Sifonte’s arguments are supported, according to the objection presented Tuesday, the committee would confirm that in a court document. It added it would not object to putting the Whitefish motion under seal if he requests it.