Thursday, 20 September, 2018

FEMA chief's dual challenge: huge hurricane and inspector general inquiry

Stacks upon stacks of bottled water sit near a runway in Ceiba Puerto Rico The Latest: Outer rain bands approaching N. Carolina coast
Frank Williams | 16 September, 2018, 04:02

A senior administration official confirmed to CNN on Thursday that there is an ongoing Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigation that includes FEMA administrator Brock Long.

When FEMA administrator Brock Long started his job previous year, he began to take routine trips home to North Carolina, using a government driver and vehicle to make the six-hour trek from Washington, D.C. An aide, who would stay in hotel room at taxpayer expense, would also accompany Long on these trips.

The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general's office is reportedly looking into whether he misused taxpayer dollars. But using those vehicles for personal trips or other activities runs afoul of government misuse regulations.

"Administrator Long and the FEMA workforce are focused on preparing for, responding to, and recovering from Hurricane Florence and other active tropical systems", Nalepa tweeted in response to the POLITICO report.

"I would never intentionally run a program incorrectly", he continued.

Long has said he will cooperate with the investigation and take it as an opportunity to make improvements to remain in line with regulations. "Doing something unethical is not in my DNA, it is not part of my track record", Long told reporters at a briefing on the storm.

ICE took $169 million from FEMA, TSA, others to fund migrant detention
The agency said it is prepared for Hurricane Florence, which is expected to hit North and SC , and Virginia on Thursday or Friday. The department has the authority to move funds around internally with the approval of Congress and transfers are not unusual.

The investigation has come to light at the same time that Long has become the face of the administration's effort to prepare for Hurricane Florence and its aftermath - a consequential test of President Donald Trump's leadership and of FEMA itself, after harsh criticism of the federal response to a hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. It said the director now drives himself or flies back to the state.

Politico said FEMA directed questions about the probe to the IG's office, which did not respond to the news organization's request for comment.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long speaks during a news conference at the National Hurricane Center as National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham, right, looks on, Wednesday, May 30, 2018, in Miami.

"Having worked directly with him for over a year, I know Administrator Long to be an experienced and respected emergency manager", Jessica Nalepa, the spokeswoman, said in the statement.

Long is the latest Trump appointee to face scrutiny over his use of government resources.

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