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Debris Debacle: "The Governor Was Actually Doing The Price Gouging"

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In an interview with CBS4 News, Governor Rick Scott continued to defend his decision to issue emergency contracts to remove storm debris after Hurricane Irma and ignore the companies already in place to do the work.

"It's so frustrating that we had special interests decide not to do their job," Scott said. "So as Governor I did the right thing."

The Governor refused to identify the "special interests."

He went on to say: "We saved unbelievable amount of money for the citizens of our state."

A review of the invoices submitted by the two companies selected to remove debris, MCM and Community Asphalt, however, found those emergency contracts actually cost taxpayers an additional $28 to $30 million.

In response to a series of questions, the Governor, who is running for the United States Senate, repeated the same refrain that the companies originally responsible for clearing debris "didn't show up to do their job" and "we did the right thing" in stepping in and helping the community.

He accused his critics of re-writing history.

An examination of the public record following the storm suggests it is the Governor who is re-writing history.

CBS4 News reviewed a video of the very first Monroe County Commission meeting following Hurricane Irma. The meeting took place on September 27, seventeen days after the storm made landfall. When the issue of debris removal was discussed, commissioners expressed annoyance and disbelief that the Governor would interfere with their efforts by sending in MCM and Community Asphalt.

"We don't need these other guys helping us," said Monroe County Mayor George Neugent, arguing it was important for the county to maintain control over how the work was done.

Neugent, and the county administrator, Roman Gastesi, said the company Monroe County hired to handle debris removal, AshBritt, was on the ground doing their job. The owner of AshBritt, Randy Perkins, was at the meeting, as well. Perkins complained MCM and Community Asphalt were complicating the cleanup in other parts of the Keys by hiring away his crews. He said MCM and Community Asphalt lacked the experience to do the job correctly.

In response the mayor asked the county attorney if they could go to court and get a "a cease and desist [order] for this other company that's interrupting the contract that we have with our contractor."

The county attorney said he didn't think they could get a judge to block the state.

Gastesi, the county administrator, said he had no idea the state was going to issue the emergency contracts on September 12, and when he found out about them on September 22, he tried to get the state to cancel them.

"We told the state, stop it," Gastesi told commissioners. "We've already said to Tallahassee, you know, we've got this. We have a contractor. You're disturbing our issues. Go away."

But the state refused, he said. "So, I mean, this is really at the governor level at this point," he said.

At the September 27 meeting, Neugent, a Republican, noted the rates being paid under the emergency contract to MCM and Community Asphalt should be a concern for taxpayers, especially compared to the rates the county's contract with AshBritt.

"But if you talk about price gouging," the mayor said, "based upon the contract that we have, the governor was actually doing the price gouging."

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