WASHINGTON - The three top jobs at the Federal Emergency Management
Agency under President Bush went to political cronies with no apparent experience
coping with catastrophes, the Daily News has learned.
Even if Bush were to fire embattled and suddenly invisible FEMA Director
Michael Brown over his handling of Hurricane Katrina, the bureaucrat immediately
below him is no disaster professional, either.
While Brown ran horse shows in his last private-sector job, FEMA's
No. 2 man, deputy director and chief of staff Patrick Rhode, was an advance
man for the Bush-Cheney campaign and White House. He also did short stints at
the Commerce Department and Small Business Administration.
Rhode's biography posted on FEMA's Web site doesn't indicate he has any real
experience in emergency response.
In addition, the agency's former third-ranking official, deputy chief
of staff Scott Morris, was a PR expert who worked for Maverick Media, the Texas
outfit that produced TV and radio spots for the Bush-Cheney campaign. In June,
Morris moved to Florida to become FEMA's long-term recovery director.
"The Bush administration has apparently transformed FEMA from
a professional, world-class emergency responder into a dumping ground for former
campaign staff and political hacks," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan).
FEMA also is hampered by several midlevel and regional director's jobs currently
held by acting directors.
"Just like our military, FEMA should be immune to this kind of political
staffing. It should be run by career emergency response professionals,"
Traditionally, the Commerce and Labor departments have long been Washington's
dumping ground for presidential pals and campaign operatives - not the disaster
Government sources blame Bush's first FEMA director, Joe Allbaugh, with turning
FEMA into a patronage shop.
He was chief of staff when Bush was Texas' governor and later headed the 2000
"He stacked the deck with political appointees," a knowledgeable
source said of Allbaugh, who had a reputation for running an efficient FEMA
operation until he left the job in March 2003.
FEMA is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. Officials at both
agencies did not return phone calls or E-mails yesterday.