SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – More than a year after Hurricane Irma left a trail of devastation across the state, a federal investigation has been launched into how certain parts of the recovery were handled and paid for.
“Governor Rick Scott allowed taxpayers to be price gouged in Hurricane Irma debris cleanup by up to $30 million,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Appearing Monday with community leaders in Sunrise, the congresswoman said the feds have responded to a letter she and her fellow Democrats penned asking for an investigation into what they called Scott’s “price gouging” emergency contracts.
“Late last week the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General responded to our letter and said that they were going to do just that, investigate these highly questionable debris contracts that Rick Scott forced on Monroe County,” she said.
In the wake of Irma, Wasserman Schultz said Scott directed his administration to use emergency contracts to speed up debris removal instead of the contracts already in place. In Monroe County, two companies were contracted to do the work at what Wasserman Schultz calls shockingly inflated costs.
“For example, Rick Scott ignored Monroe County’s existing roadway clearing contract which was $32 per mile and he replaced it with a state contract that cost $913 per mile,” said Wasserman Schultz.
Back in June, Scott defended his position to CBS4’s Jim DeFede.
“It was so unfortunate, we had a special interest decide not to their job so we did the right thing,” he said. “We saved an unbelievable amount of money for the citizens of our state”
Wasserman Schultz isn’t buying that.
“I think that Rick Scott was intending to line the pocket of his cronies, of his contributors, I mean there’s no other explanation,” she said.
The emergency contracts were the focus of a series of stories by CBS Miami, entitled Debris Debacle. The stories detailed how Scott’s administration issued emergency contracts for the lucrative work of clearing fallen trees, palm fronds, as well as the remnants of destroyed homes and trailers.
The prices in the emergency contracts were believed to be the highest in the state.
In a letter to Democratic lawmakers, the Inspector General said they release the finding of their audit once the investigation is complete.