Thursday, November 03, 2005

Brown E-Mails Disgraceful

Recently released e-mails sent by former FEMA director Michael Brown show a disgraceful level of incompetence and one that borders on criminal negligence. (Washington Post: Brown Discussed Wardrobe During Katrina). At a time when residents of the Gulf Coast were in desperate need of assistance and state governments were in need of direction, Brown was busy joking about his wardrobe and his imminent (and planned) departure as head of the agency.

While Hurricane Katrina was making landfall, Brown sent an e-mail joking about his wardrobe saying, "I got it at Nordstroms. Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?" He might as well have quit and gone home since he provided nothing of value throughout the crisis.

If that were the only e-mail it could easily be overlooked or excused, but it simply did not end there. On August 31, he received a desperate call for assistance from FEMA official Marty Bahamonde who called the situation "past critical." Speaking of patients in emergency temporary shelters he warned that, “Estimates are many will die within hours.” The e-mail went on to state, "We are out of food and running out of water at the dome, plans in works to address the critical need.” What is Michael Brown's response to this escalating emergency? "Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?”

Responding to criticism of FEMA's lack of response in the crisis, Brown publicly stated, “My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday [two days before the storm hit] that Louisiana was dysfunctional." Sadly, it's not Louisiana that was dysfunctional, it was Michael Brown. One must wonder how many lives were lost and how many families have lost everything because of his gross incompetence. This is precisely the type of behaviour that requires an investigation. Brown should certainly be held accountable for his disgraceful actions in time of crisis.

Brown's actions go beyond incompetent. An incompetent manager in time of crisis will still attempt to take action. They may make the wrong decisions or they may fumble about incapable of making decisions, and more often then not the incompetent manager will get in the way. None of this describes Brown's actions. He was not just incompetent, he was negligent. He was too self-centered to even recognize that there was a problem. When confronted with it, he attempted to blame everyone else on the planet for his own negligence. He needs to be held accountable. Too many lives depended on his agency for this type of behaviour to go unpunished.


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