Twitter feud prompts absence of Puerto Rican governor during hearing over island's electric utility

07/26/2018 10:40 AM

Ten months after Hurricane Maria, more than 500 buildings remain without power in Puerto Rico and many blame the bankrupt Puerto Rico Power Authority. Meanwhile, lawmakers are looking for answers by holding a hearing on Capitol Hill. But one major player wasn’t there — Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello, who chose not to attend after a Twitter feud with the committee’s chairman.

The tweet that made waves from San Juan to Capitol Hill was sent via a key house panel’s official account last week. It invited Governor Rossello to the hearing where the island’s electric utility was front and center. But, he was a no show.

The governor explained his absence in a written response, stating, “I do not appreciate your committee staff disparaging or demeaning members of my team or trying to make me or my government look uncooperative or politically motivated.”

The hearing went on without him with the management crisis at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority under the microscope. Just this month, a chief executive resigned from the bankrupt utility, one replacement withdrew and five board members quit. The departures are why some lawmakers are suggesting the governor’s ability to appoint members to an oversight body should be revoked.

Some on the committee are considering legislation that would give federal government greater oversight over the money allocated to the Puerto Rico Electric Utility, but some don’t believe that’s necessary.

“We don’t need legislation to do our jobs,” said Rep. Darren Soto, D-Florida. “We don’t need a federal takeover, but we do need to keep a short leash on PREPA.”

In written testimony, the governor emphasizes that critical policy choices that will impact the future of Puerto Rico should lie in the hands of the Puerto Rican government.

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