MIAMI -- Three members of Congress from Florida are calling for an investigation into a no-bid, $341 million contract recently awarded to the company that runs the Homestead, Fla., detention center for migrant children.
The award came as Gen. John Kelly, President Donald Trump's former chief of staff, was joining the advisory board of the operator's parent company. Kelly advocated and helped carry out the president's policy of separating children from parents upon their arrival at the border. In light of that, Kelly should not be helping oversee a company that profits from the same policy, critics have said.
Although the Homestead center is primarily for unaccompanied minors, children separated from their parents have also been detained there.
In a letter Monday to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Reps. Donna Shalala, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell demanded that the IG look into how the contract was awarded and explain the role of Kelly, if any, in engineering the deal.
"It is disconcerting that such a critical contract would be awarded without an open bid process with comprehensive vetting. We respectfully ask that your office conduct an audit of the contracting process carried out by the department," the letter says.
"Furthermore, we want to...seek clarity on (Kelly's) engagement and influence in the process. We find it troubling that General Kelly's tenure in the administration led to a dramatic increase in both the number of children held at the Homestead facility and the duration of time that accompanied children are being kept in government custody."
The letter came about two weeks after the Miami Herald shed light on a series of short-term deals awarded to Comprehensive Health Services, a subsidiary of Caliburn International, which itself is under the umbrella of the private equity firm DC Capital Partners. DC Capital's advisory panel consists of a battery of former top national security, diplomatic and military officials. Board members are paid an annual cash retainer of $100,000, according to SEC filings.
A week after the Herald story was published, Kelly, who was Trump's secretary of Homeland Security before becoming chief of staff, announced he had rejoined the board, on which he had served before joining the Trump administration.
That announcement came a month after Kelly was spotted entering the Homestead detention center on a golf cart. Although no announcement had been made at that time, sources have told the Herald he had already rejoined the board.
HHS did not immediately respond to the Miami Herald's request for comment Monday.