Saturday, October 22, 2005

No Crony Left Behind

Remember ex-FEMA Director Michael Brown? He is STILL drawing a paycheck. A FEMA spokeswoman said that Brown is working from home, where he is "pulling all the documentation together" to aid in the investigations into the government's response to Katrina. His original 30-day contract was recently extended for another 30 days, she said.

The Chicago Tribune
The only FEMA employee to ride out Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans painted a grim portrait Thursday of an agency led by officials who were unprepared for the scope of the disaster and failed to respond to his increasingly desperate pleas for help.

Marty Bahamonde's emotional testimony to a Senate committee, backed by e-mails he sent from New Orleans as floodwaters engulfed much of the city, provided the most detailed eyewitness account yet from an agency official of FEMA's handling of the disaster.

A veteran public affairs officer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bahamonde was its only representative in the city from the Saturday before the flood began on Monday, Aug. 29, until the early morning hours of the next day.

He contradicted testimony that then-FEMA Director Michael Brown gave a House committee in late September and portrayed him as failing to grasp the severity of the catastrophe. In an e-mail he sent to a co-worker, Bahamonde's frustration with Brown burst through.

Bahamonde had just learned, as he huddled in the Louisiana Superdome with tens of thousands of New Orleans' residents driven from their homes, that Brown's press secretary was fretting about blocking out time for the director to eat dinner at one of Baton Rouge's busy restaurants that night.

"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!" Bahamonde messaged a co-worker. "I just ate an MRE and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants."

In his Sept. 27 testimony to the House panel that also is investigating the government's response, Brown had said that he sent a dozen FEMA staffers, including a medical team, to New Orleans before Katrina struck. He said Bahamonde was designated as his liaison to New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin.

Not true, Bahamonde said Thursday. "I was the only one" Brown sent to New Orleans before the hurricane, Bahamonde said. He added, "I was not sent there to be a liaison with anyone."

Brown testified that Bahamonde had sent him a "fairly routine kind of e-mail" on Monday, Aug. 29, describing the "general conditions" at the Superdome. Bahamonde also communicated later that day, Brown testified, that the shelter "had plenty of food" to feed those thronging there.

Not so
, Bahamonde said Thursday. "Nothing I did was routine as I tried to express in the best way I could the urgency and need for medical teams before the hurricane hit because there was already a critical situation developing there on Sunday."

He never told Brown, he said, that food supplies were adequate.

Bahamonde's effort to sound the alarm began shortly after he arrived in New Orleans on Saturday, Aug. 27. He learned the next day from city officials that only 40,000 of the 360,000 military rations FEMA had promised to deliver had arrived, along with only five of 15 promised water trucks.

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Crooks and Liars and The Petrelis Files


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