Report follows controversy over Brown’s qualifications, agency’s
WASHINGTON - Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown
is being removed from his role managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, NBC
News and The Associated Press reported Friday.
Two federal officials who wouldn't be identified told the AP that Brown
is being sent back to Washington from Baton Rouge, La. He was the primary official
overseeing the federal government's response to the disaster. NBC learned the
same thing from a relief official.
FEMA has been criticized for its response to the disaster, and Time magazine
on Friday reported that Brown’s official biography overstated his emergency-management
Brown's biography on the FEMA Web site says he had once served as an
"assistant city manager with emergency services oversight,"
and a White House news release in 2001 said Brown had worked for the city of
Edmond, Okla., in the 1970s "overseeing the emergency-services division."
However, a city spokeswoman told the magazine Brown had actually worked as
"an assistant to the city manager."
"The assistant is more like an intern," Claudia Deakins told
the magazine. "Department heads did not report to him." Time
posted the article on its Web site late on Thursday.
A former mayor of Edmond, Randel Shadid, confirmed that Friday. Shadid told
The Associated Press that Brown had been an assistant to the city manager, and
never assistant city manager.
“I think there’s a difference between the two positions,”
said Shadid. “I would think that is a discrepancy.”
FEMA, White House response
Nicol Andrews, deputy strategic director in FEMA’s office of public affairs,
told Time that while Brown began as an intern, he became an “assistant city
manager” with a distinguished record of service.
“According to Mike Brown,” Andrews told Time, a large portion of
points raised by the magazine are “very inaccurate.”
White House press secretary Scott McClellan referred all questions about Brown’s
resume to FEMA.
McClellan said the White House’s earlier statements that Brown retained
the president’s confidence remain true — but he declined to state
that confidence outright.
“I’d leave it where I left it,” McClellan said. “We
appreciate the work of all those who have been working around the clock to respond
to what has been on the worst natural disasters in our nation’s history.”
Other work experience
Brown, a lawyer, was appointed as FEMA's general counsel in 2001 and became
head of the agency in 2003. The work in Edmond is the only previous disaster-related
experience cited in the biographies. Brown served as commissioner of the International
Arabian Horse Association before taking the FEMA job.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, had cited Brown's Edmond
experience as "particularly useful" for FEMA during a hearing in 2002.
Critics, including some Republicans, have blasted Brown for delays and missteps
in the federal government's response to Katrina's deadly and devastating assault
on the Gulf Coast last week. Some have demanded his ouster.
Bush last week gave Brown a word of support, saying "Brownie, you're doing
a heck of a job."
This week, Bush put the U.S. Coast Guard's chief of staff in charge of the
federal recovery effort in New Orleans and gave Vice President Dick Cheney the
job of cutting through bureaucratic delays.
Other FEMA officials
The Washington Post reported
on Friday that five of eight top FEMA officials had come to their jobs with
virtually no experience in handling disasters. The agency's top three leaders,
including Brown, had ties to Bush's 2000 presidential campaign or the White
House advance operation.
Former Edmond city manager Bill Dashner recalled for Time that Brown had worked
for him as an administrative assistant while attending Central State University.
"Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him
to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had
on a suit and a starched white shirt," Dashner told Time.
Edmond's population is about 70,000.