While Republicans accuse Democratic congressional candidate Randy Perkins of profiting from natural disasters through his disaster-relief business, Perkins’ campaign Facebook page has been featuring Ashbritt Inc. over the past week for its response to Hurricane Matthew, saying the company is “here for the local communities that depend on us to respond quickly.”
Perkins faces Republican Brian Mast in the nationally watched race for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18 seat.
The three major jurisdictions in District 18 — the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority and Martin and St. Lucie counties — have contracts with Ashbritt for debris removal after storms. Asbhritt also has contracts with Brevard, Volusia and St. Johns counties in Florida; Chatham County, Georgia; and Charleston, S.C., according to a Perkins campaign spokesman.
Martin County estimates it will spend $1.3 million on debris removal, with “half or a little more” going to Ashbritt, according to Martin County Engineer Don Donaldson. In Palm Beach County, Ashbritt is one of five vendors with SWA contracts but the contracts are not expected to be activated, said Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron.
Perkins’ campaign Facebook page last week posted photos of Perkins, in his capacity as Ashbritt CEO, meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to discuss storm response.
“Our local communities in District 18 have relied on my company in times of crisis for more than 12 years. I’m grateful most of our region was spared from the worst of Hurricane Matthew, but we are here to assist communities in need,” says a Sunday post that shows Perkins and Deal together.
“For 12 years, my company has been contracted to help St. Lucie (and Martin and Palm Beach) with recovery efforts, and we are here for the local communities that depend on us to respond quickly. We are helping to prepare for and respond to the storm,” says the post from last week with Perkins and Scott at the St. Lucie County Emergency Operations Center.
From here out, Perkins’ spokesman Sam Miller said, Perkins will be focusing on the campaign.
“His company has a great team of men and women handling all the contracts for the recovery efforts who he trusts very much,” Miller said. “He’s campaigning full-time right now.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee, meanwhile, has released a 30-second TV ad today that says “Randy Perkins doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as he gets paid.”
The ad highlights a 2009 Broward County school district audit that said the district overpaid Ashbritt $765,608 for repairs to portable classrooms damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Ashbritt filed a 2010 lawsuit disputing the claim and reached a settlement in 2014 in which it paid the district $200,000 and the school board stated that Ashbritt “committed no wrong doing.” The settlement states that language in the Wilma contract was “ambiguous and there is a good faith disagreement over its interpretation.”