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Congressman Robert Wexler, 19th District of Florida
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2005
Contact: Lale Mamaux
Phone: (202)225-3001
Cell: (202)225-1913

Wexler Calls for FEMA Director's Resignation
Letter to President Requests Brown's Dismissal for Fraudulent Payments Made by FEMA After Hurricane

(Washington, DC) - Today, Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) sent the following letter to President George Bush requesting that he immediately remove Michael Brown from his position as head of the Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Under Secretary Brown's agency disbursed over $30 million in disaster relief money, which was allocated to over 10,000 Miami-Dade claimants after Hurricane Frances, which made landfall more than 100 miles away and there was no more than a heavy rainstorm. 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 sites 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."

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 Association (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. 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.

(Please find below a copy of the letter):

Congressman Wexler serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House International Relations Committee.


January 24, 2005

President George W. Bush

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush:

I respectfully request that you immediately remove Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response from his current position at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) given his failure to address agency fraud including a massive misallocation of recovery aid funds in Florida. As you are aware, there are several ongoing Federal investigations into disturbing reports of fraudulent reimbursements given to residents in Miami-Dade County, Florida following hurricane Frances. The reported fraud has cost the government over $30 million and can be described only as a debacle for an agency that was primarily responsible for helping the citizens of Florida rebuild their lives from one of the most destructive hurricane seasons in history.

As the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Under Secretary Brown coordinates federal disaster response and recovery operations and coordinates disaster activities and oversees the agency that has refused to accept responsibility for its glaring mistakes. While Mr. Brown and FEMA admit to $12 million in overpayments, they continue to refuse to own up to serious mistakes, blaming instead a "computer glitch" or un-attributable weather reports. Rather than leading the charge to correct the problems and help clear his agency's name, Under Secretary Brown has stymied investigations and inquiries into the fraud allegations. I am sure you agree that such a gross waste of taxpayer monies can not be taken lightly. This debacle has detracted from the invaluable work FEMA has carried out in areas that were actually affected by the hurricanes. Since he has been unwilling to take responsibility for the actions of his agency, I hope you will hold Under Secretary Brown responsible yourself.

I thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of my request.

Sincerely,

Robert Wexler

Member of Congress

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