U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler
(D-Fla) has urged President Bush to fire Michael Brown as undersecretary of the Homeland Security Department in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Wexler cited reports in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that FEMA under Brown's management inappropriately gave away $30 million in disaster relief funds to people in
the Miami, Florida, area even though they were not affected by Hurricane Frances, which made landfall more than 100 miles away.
In his letter to Bush, Wexler wrote: "According to several news accounts by the South Florida
Sun-Sentinel, 'FEMA has written checks to cover new wardrobes, cars, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, furniture and
thousands of televisions, microwave ovens, stoves, air conditioners and other appliances.' In
addition, the Sun-Sentinel cites that FEMA paid $4,500 for one resident’s funeral, even though the
county medical examiner recorded no storm-related deaths. Another Sun-Sentinel article stated that
two residents received aid for 'dental treatments due to dental injuries received during the
disaster.' In six other cases, FEMA reimbursed residents for damage caused by 'ice/snow.'"
In a Jan. 24 news release, Wexler added: "On Monday, January 11, FEMA held a news conference acknowledging that they made $12 million in
overpayments to 3,500 individuals — blaming these overpayments on a 'computer glitch.'
FEMA, however, continues to deny additional systematic problems and cites the National Oceanic
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to prove that there were legitimate hurricane conditions in
Miami-Dade. Yet, according to the Sun-Sentinel, NOAA has refuted the weather maps FEMA claims to
have obtained from them. As the head of FEMA, Under Secretary Brown oversees federal disaster
response and recovery operations, and it is negligent of him to refuse to accept responsibility for
its agency mistakes."
“Rather than taking responsibility for FEMA’s mishaps and moving expeditiously to correct the
problems, Under Secretary Brown has further undermined his agency’s reputation by stymied
investigations and inquiries into fraud allegations," Wexler added. "FEMA’s massive misallocation of recovery aid
is a gross waste of taxpayer monies, which must be immediately addressed by the Bush
Administration,” Wexler said.