Fate of FEMA Leader Brock Long in Doubt as Florence Cleanup Continues - NBC10 Boston
Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence

Full coverage as Florence impacts the East Coast

Fate of FEMA Leader Brock Long in Doubt as Florence Cleanup Continues

Some emergency management experts say the investigations into Long's possible misuse of government vehicles are a distraction for the beleaguered agency as it deals with the worst storm of the year

Find NBC Boston in your area

Channel 10 on most providers

Channel 15, 60 and 8 Over the Air

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Fate of FEMA Leader Brock Long in Doubt as Florence Cleanup Continues
    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, File
    This Sept. 26, 2017, file photo shows Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long talks to reporters outside the White House about the response to hurricanes Maria and Irma in Puerto Rico.

    What to Know

    • The head of FEMA is being investigated by Homeland Security's internal watchdog

    • He's also being investigated by a congressional committee for the possible misuse of government vehicles

    • Experts say the investigations are a distraction as the office deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence

    While Hurricane Florence barreled through the Carolinas, a different type of storm was brewing within the federal disaster relief agency tasked with responding to the fallout.

    The fate of Brock Long, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was cast in doubt with revelations that he was being investigated by Homeland Security's internal watchdog and a congressional committee for the possible misuse of government vehicles.

    The watchdog, the inspector general's office, has turned the review over to federal prosecutors to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted, according to a person familiar with the probe. The person was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and requested anonymity.

    Long, a well-respected emergency manager, says he is not focused on the probes.

    Family Says Vaping Killed Their 28-Year-Old Son

    [NATL] Family Says Vaping Killed Their 28-Year-Old Son
    An Orlando family is grieving the loss of their 28-year-old son, who died last week. They said he died as a result of vaping. Kyle Boyd's mother, Kimberly, said he was fine last Monday after he came home from hanging out with a group of friends. She said the next morning she could not wake him up.
     
    (Published Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019)

    "I am fully focused on those impacted by Hurricane Florence," he said in a statement Monday evening, after being asked for comment on the investigation.

    But some emergency management experts say the investigations are a distraction for the beleaguered agency as it deals with the worst storm of the year.

    Beverly Cigler, co-chair of a Hurricane Katrina task force set up by the American Society for Public Administration, said Long has been working hard but that "any organization has to have active engaged leadership at the very top."

    "You don't want your FEMA administrator to be under investigation that's going to distract you somewhat no matter how focused you are," said Cigler, a Penn State distinguished professor emerita.

    Rafael Lemaitre, who was a senior FEMA official in the Obama administration, said the timing was troubling.

    "For these allegations to emerge in the hours before landfall of a major hurricane is a huge distraction to the work the FEMA administrator is doing," he said.

    The agency is already under pressure after a grueling hurricane season last year that included Harvey, Irma and Maria. The federal response to Maria in Puerto Rico was widely criticized; President Donald Trump has lashed out over the criticism and suggested without evidence the revised death toll of nearly 3,000 was a conspiracy made up by Democrats.

    Long has not been asked to resign. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversees FEMA, has said she has confidence in him. Other Trump administration officials have lost their jobs over ethics issues related to travel, but they involved more outsized allegations.

    Long, 43, took over as FEMA administrator in June 2017. He has extensive emergency management experience — a federal requirement for the job since the Bush administration's bungled response to Katrina. He previously served in Alabama as the director of emergency management.

    The investigations center on whether Long used government-owned vehicles for visits home to Hickory, North Carolina. It's not uncommon for an inspector general to refer cases so federal prosecutors can determine whether charges are warranted, and it doesn't mean he'll be charged with a crime.

    Meanwhile, Long has until Oct. 1 to turn over documents to the House Oversight Committee related to travel and hotels possibly used by FEMA employees who were required to accompany him on the personal trips.

    Long has largely kept a low public profile during Florence. He'd been front-and-center at press briefings as FEMA managed Hurricane Lane in Hawaii earlier this month. After the news broke of the investigation last week, Long appeared at a briefing in Washington to say he was fully focused on the storm preparations and would fully comply with the probe.

    Trapped Hong Kong Protesters Rappel Down Hoses to Escape

    [NATL] Trapped Hong Kong Protesters Rappel Down Hoses to Escape

    Harrowing footage shows protesters trapped inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University rappelling down hoses to escape a police siege. About 100 anti-government protesters remain inside the university on a third day of clashes between protesters and police. 

    (Published Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019)

    "Doing something unethical is not part of my DNA and it's not part of my track record in my whole entire career," Long said then.

    But on Tuesday, he spoke at a North Carolina news conference with other emergency managers.

    "It's really important for me to get out of D.C. and to be on the ground to be able to help North Carolina," Long said.

    State emergency management head Mike Sprayberry thanked him for his work, as did Gov. Roy Cooper.

    "Right now FEMA is giving us what we need," Cooper said.

    Before the storm struck, FEMA had deployed more than 8 million bottles of water and meals, plus generators, blankets, tarps and cots to North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. It was acting on lessons learned following Maria, when it had underestimated the food and fresh water needed, and how hard it would be to get supplies to the island.

    Melting Sea Ice Spurs Spread of Marine Diseases

    [NATL] Melting Sea Ice Spurs Spread of Marine Diseases

    Melting sea ice on its own presents plenty of challenges for Arctic marine mammals, from loss of habitat, to changing predator prey dynamics. Now there's a new challenge present in a link between sea ice loss and the spread of disease between previously isolated marine life.

    (Published Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019)

    It's too early to gauge FEMA's response. While the storm has moved away, the rivers are still rising.

    Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.