SAN JUAN, Nov 18, 2017 (BSS/AFP) – The head of Puerto Rico’s power authority has resigned amid a scandal over efforts to restore electricity to the hurricane-hit island, its governor announced Friday.
Governor Ricardo Rossello told a news conference that Ricardo Ramos had resigned as executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to avoid “distractions.”
Rossello defended Ramos’ management but suggested that his resignation was necessary in the midst of the controversy. He did not say whether or not he had asked for his resignation.
More than half of the population of Puerto Rico is still without electricity nearly two months after Hurricane Maria ravaged the US territory of more than three million people.
Critics of Ramos have also questioned the decision to award a tiny American firm a $300 million contract to help restore power, a deal that has since been cancelled.
Whitefish Energy, a small company that reportedly had just two employees prior to starting work on the island, was founded two years ago and is based in the hometown of US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke — arousing suspicions that President Donald Trump’s administration could have wielded influence over the deal.
Ramos appeared before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources earlier this week, saying that prioritizing “immediate assistance” led him to agree to the Whitefish contract.
On Friday, local newspaper El Vocero also reported that Ramos awarded a $99,500 contract to Pedro Juan Morales Gonzalez, who was involved in a 2008 bribery scandal but was not charged.