The Puerto Rico Times

May 25, 2022 11:27 am

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Saved Stories – Shared Links: Former FEMA Official Accused of Taking Bribes in Hurricane Maria Recovery

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Mr. Leone stressed that the contract was awarded before Mr. Ellison met Ms. Tribble, and noted that the contract costs were audited by RAND Corporation and found to be reasonable.

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“There is nothing wrong with this contract or having a close personal relationship with someone who works at FEMA,” he said. “Every aspect of this contract was audited, reviewed and approved by so many levels of government bureaucracy, I don’t think any one person could have influenced how it was done.”

Ms. Tribble’s lawyer, Bridget Moore, said she and her co-counsel “look forward to vindicating our client, and bringing to light the details of how this investigation has been handled by the government.”

But Puerto Rico’s governor, Wanda Vázquez, called what was outlined in the charges “reprehensible and outrageous.”

“They misused and took advantage of the need and pain that Puerto Rico faced after the passage of Hurricane Maria,” she said, adding that the government will continue to strengthen its anticorruption measures.

FEMA “is fully cooperating with federal investigators,” the agency said in a statement. “FEMA’s mission is to help the American people before, during, and after disasters, and our mission can only be accomplished by maintaining the public trust and confidence of those we serve. As such, the agency takes allegations of employee misconduct extremely seriously and holds all employees to the highest ethical standards — requiring them to protect government resources and place public service over private gain in everything they do.”

Ms. Tribble is currently on unpaid suspension, and has no official access to FEMA facilities, systems or records, FEMA said.

Federal authorities have been conducting a wide-ranging corruption inquiry in Puerto Rico. Six people, including two senior Puerto Rican government officials, were arrested in a separate case in July on charges of steering $15.5 million in federal contracts to politically connected consultants. The case stirred unrest against the governor at the time, Ricardo A. Rosselló. A leak of hundreds of pages of a private text chat between him and his inner circle days later unleashed two weeks of mass protests that led to Mr. Rosselló’s resignation.

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