TRENTON – Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are reportedly disputing claims made by the company contracted by the state for debris removal following Superstorm Sandy that the agency “signed off” on the process, according to reports.
Randy Perkins, CEO of the Florida-based debris removal company AshBritt, told lawmakers Friday FEMA “signed off on the contracting process” and that high-ranking officials, including the agency’s head of council, were at the table when New Jersey “piggybacked” off of an out-of-state contract.
However, FEMA gave a conflicting account, telling The Star-Ledger during the Friday hearing that the agency had not “blessed” Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to award the contract to Perkins’ company.
“Neither the Administrator nor the Chief Counsel of FEMA are familiar with the details concerning a New Jersey contract with AshBritt nor has either of them provided any approval of the contract on behalf of the Agency,” Lars Anderson, the agency’s director of public affairs, told the newspaper.
“All I can tell you is the director of public affairs in Washington … is saying, in fact, they have not endorsed the contract,” Sen. Bob Gordon, (D-38), chairman of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, told Perkins during the hearing.
“With all due respect to The Star-Ledger,” said Perkins, adding, “With all due respect, it pains me to say that, I can tell you, factually, that attorneys from FEMA were sitting in the meeting.”
Perkins said he would be glad to appear before lawmakers again and be joined by FEMA officials.
“With all due respect, if this is some smoking gun it’s shooting water right now,” Perkins said.
The largely tame hearing wasn’t completely absent of heated exchanges.
At one point, Perkins accused Sen. Barbara Buono, (D-18), of using the hearing for political gains.
“With all due respect, you’re running for governor,” the CEO said to the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
“That’s inappropriate,” Buono shot back, adding, “I’m a state senator representing the 18th District.”
Perkins later apologized.
“It was uncalled for,” he said at the conclusion of the hearing. “I would like to retract that.”