Congressman Robert Wexler, 19th District of Florida
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 27, 2005
Contact: Lale Mamaux
Phone: (202)225-3001
Cell: (202)225-1913

Wexler Renews Call for FEMA Director's Removal
Cites FEMA's Failure to Account for Hiring of Ex-Cons as Inspectors and Erroneous Disbursements

(Washington, DC) - Today, Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) sent a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff requesting that he remove Michael Brown from his position as head of the Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Under Secretary Brown's agency erroneously disbursed over $30 million in disaster relief money to over 10,000 Miami-Dade claimants after Hurricane Frances, which made landfall more than 100 miles away with no more than a heavy rainstorm actually affecting the county. Subsequently, news reports have continued to uncover a litany of problems with FEMA's disbursement of funds, all of which have been ignored or dismissed by the agency. On January 24, 2005, Wexler sent a letter to President George Bush, calling for Brown's resignation; however, his call was ignored by the White House.

On April 24, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that FEMA relied on inspectors with past criminal records such as embezzlement, drug dealing and robbery to inspect victims' homes after the hurricanes. To date, there have been fourteen Miami-Dade residents who have received aid from FEMA and have been indicted for fraud. Of those individuals, three have pleaded guilty.

(Please find a copy of the letter below)

Congressman Wexler is a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

April 27, 2005

Michael Chertoff, Secretary

United States Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

I am writing to request your assistance with regard to an issue of growing concern, the continued mismanagement of hurricane recovery assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). I remain deeply troubled by the accounts of corruption and fraud, which have surfaced about FEMA's disbursement of funds during hurricane recovery efforts in Florida. I strongly urge you to assist myself and other concerned Floridians in shedding light on what appears to be blatant mismanagement and to make public information pertaining to inspectors and aid recipients given the magnitude of this problem.

As you are aware, I have worked closely with FEMA officials since the initial siege of hurricanes this past summer to this point. While I greatly appreciate the work FEMA has done in helping Floridians recover from last years unprecedented series of hurricanes, I am deeply concerned about what appears to be the incompetent administration of federal assistance, including both the funding of fraudulent requests as well as the refusal of funds to legitimately impacted communities. News accounts have reported that over $30 million in disaster relief money was dispersed to residents of Miami-Dade after Hurricane Frances, which made landfall over 100 miles north of the county. At the same time, Palm Beach and other affected counties have been waiting in line, struggling to get the funding they rightly deserve.

As you know, rather than work constructively to fix these problems, FEMA continues to deny any wrongdoing and blames their illegal reimbursements on a computer glitch rather than owning up to mistakes and working to correct the fraudulent payments. While some sort of computer error may have contributed to the problems, it is difficult to believe that this alone was FEMA's only error. In response to this continuing refusal to address the growing problems, on January 24, I sent a letter to President George Bush, calling for Brown's resignation; however this request was ignored by the White House.

Since that time the reports of mismanagement and fraud have only increased. There are new and disturbing reports that FEMA relied on inspectors with past criminal records such as embezzlement, drug dealing and robbery to inspect victims' homes after the hurricane. Additionally, there have been fourteen Miami-Dade residents who have received aid from FEMA and have been indicted for fraud. Of those individuals, three have pleaded guilty. Given the litany of problems that have surfaced, I am writing to renew my request that Under Secretary Michael Brown be removed from his position as head of FEMA.

In short, the public in South Florida has lost confidence that FEMA can fulfill its mission of assisting communities recovering from disasters. Secretary Chertoff, it is critical that you immediately address FEMA's monumental mismanagement and waste of taxpayer monies. To this end, I urge you to hold Under Secretary Brown and FEMA officials responsible for their actions, particularly as the legitimate needs of countless Floridians still recovering from Hurricane damage are being denied due to lack of funds. I look forward to working with you to shed light on these problems and ensure that such glaring mistakes are never made again.

With warm regards,
Robert Wexler, Member of Congress



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