SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ first experience cleaning up after a wildfire has turned into a bureaucratic mess, and California’s top emergency official suspects fraud played a role.
California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci complained to the Army that contractors it paid by the ton to clear debris took too much dirt and damaged or removed perfectly fine driveways, retaining walls and the like after the 2017 wine country fire that destroyed thousands of homes.
About 1,000 homeowners complained that cleanup crews damaged their property. Ghilarducci told the Army in August that his agency spent millions fixing the problems.
Ghilarducci said in the August letter it’s probable some contractors purposely took too much dirt for bigger payments.
Corps spokesman Mike Petersen says no evidence of fraud has been reported. He says the Federal Emergency Management Agency is still preparing a response to Ghilarducci’s letter.