CBS Miami’s Jim Defede reports that soon after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys, the Rick Scott administration quietly invited a few contractors to bid on an emergency debris removal contract that has increased costs and undercut companies that had existing contracts:

....The emergency contract, uncovered by CBS4 News, dramatically raises the cost of cleaning up the Florida Keys. And it came at a time when Governor Scott was publicly claiming his Administration was holding the line on costs and demanding debris removal firms not raise their rates.

Under the emergency contract awarded through the Florida Department of Transportation, MCM and Community Asphalt are being paid anywhere from three to 10 times more to do the same work that AshBritt is doing under a separate agreement the firm has with Monroe County.

“What [the Florida Department of Transportation] did with this emergency bid at the Governor’s direction was they upset the market condition from being able to get work done here,” Perkins claimed. “What they did here caused tremendous harm to the rest of the state of Florida.”....

Gov. Scott’s office responded Friday, writing:

“WFOR aired a completely one-sided story on the debris removal process in Monroe County. They claim that the state misused tax dollars to remove debris. That is false.

“Prior to Hurricane Irma, counties entered into contracts with debris removal companies. After the storm, the Governor heard from many local communities, including Monroe County, that many of these companies were not providing the agreed upon service and were demanding higher prices. This is unacceptable.

“Following a request for assistance from Monroe County, and because it was absolutely critical to clear roadways in the Florida Keys so families could begin to rebuild their lives, the Governor directed the Department of Transportation to immediately begin debris removal in Monroe County and activated 400 National Guard members for the same purpose. Through this process, FDOT entered into emergency debris removal contracts, which they must do to have the personnel and equipment to clear roads. Although not required to do so due to the state of emergency, FDOT went above and beyond emergency procurement requirements to competitively solicit multiple bids from pre-qualified vendors that could safely and efficiently respond to Monroe County’s immediate debris removal needs.

“Governor Scott will continue to fight for consumers - not businesses who attempted to take advantage of their communities after this massive and deadly storm. The Governor appreciates Attorney General Pam Bondi investigating complaints of price gouging and working to protect families.

“He’s glad that that the Florida Keys met his goal of reopening on October 1, and will continue to work to ensure that every family in Florida can completely recover.”