Florida Politician’s Company Accused of Hurricane Price Gouging

A sinking boat is surrounded by debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma at Sundance Marine in Palm Shores, Fla., on Sept. 11, 2017. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CN) – Citing reports that a company exploited Hurricane Irma to gouge municipalities on debris-removal services, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wants a court to enforce a subpoena.

Bondi filed the Oct. 25 petition with the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Broward County.

The respondent, Deerfield Beach-based AshBritt Inc., is owned by Randy Perkins, a Democrat who made an unsuccessful bid in the 2016 election for the battleground 18th congressional district.

Bondi’s complaint comes just over a month after Hurricane Irma hit Florida on Sept. 10.

Several municipalities had contracted with AshBritt for debris-removal services, but Bondi says “debris from the hurricane remained in locations throughout Florida, threatening public safety.”

“Numerous concerns were raised regarding AshBritt’s failure to perform under the fixed price contracts,” the petition states. “The attorney general received reports that AshBritt attempted to revise contracts by withholding performance until and unless governments paid increased rates. AshBritt’s actions imposed an unfair Hobson’s choice on local governments seeking to address the health and safety concerns of its residents.”

Believing that AshBritt violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act during a state of emergency, Bondi served AshBritt with an investigative subpoena on Oct. 2.

She say AshBritt failed to respond and should thus be compelled by the court.

Assistant Attorney General Sasha Funk Granai signed the 5-page petition.

A footnote to the filing notes that AshBritt is fighting to quash the subpoena. 

Beyond providing a copy of its motion to quash, AshBritt otherwise refused to comment on Bondi’s petition. The 44-page filing calls Bondi’s allegations baseless.

“The facts reveal no foundation for the subpoena or for the attorney general’s unreasonable demand for an enormous production of tens of thousands of documents,” it states. “Far from seeking ‘unconscionable’ prices from the cities and counties that it serves, AshBritt’s prices are well below the state-approved price for debris removal, and are consistent with market conditions created by the state’s own unforeseen actions.”

AshBritt is represented by Michael Moskowitz with the firm Moskowitz, Mandell, Salim & Simowitz.

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