The inspector general’s office at the Homeland Security Department is not talking. But its just-completed report on the unauthorized travel expenses claimed by Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long was unveiled on Wednesday by a Democratic lawmaker.
Long’s regularly escorted, mostly weekend trips in government vehicles to his home in Hickory, N.C., amount to $151,000, said the heavily redacted 21-page report released by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.. That’s $94,000 in salaries, $55,000 in travel, and $2,000 in operations and maintenance costs, according to the report. (Cummings staff had requested it from the IG as “a releasable copy.”)
In the timeframe reviewed from November to May 2018, Long took at least nine official trips that either began or ended in Charlotte, N.C., or had a two-day stopover at that location, resulting in an additional 15 trips by the FEMA Office of Administrator Emergency Transport Team.
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The probe—which included surveillance of Long—had been triggered by a complaint received on Nov. 27, 2017, stemming from a road accident Long was involved in while not on official business. FEMA personnel tried to omit his name from the accident report, the IG said. The audit also examined a Long family vacation in Hawaii on the heels of an official trip.
Long was informed last October that his home-to-work travel was not authorized, auditors found, but he continued to say his staff was still clarifying the issue.
The DHS Office of Chief Counsel researched the home-to-work “authorization and determined Long could obtain temporary authorization when the [Washington-based National Response Coordination Center] was activated, but would need approval from the DHS Secretary and Long would incur a tax liability as this type of support would be considered a fringe benefit.” An unidentified source “stated he informed Long in October  that this [home-to-work] support was not authorized.”
“The FEMA administrator is supposed to be focused on preparing for disasters like the devastating hurricanes that killed thousands of Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—not using government vehicles to shuttle his family around Hawaii at taxpayer expense,” Cummings said, requesting a briefing on how FEMA planned to “claw back” the $150,000. Long’s “apparent violations of federal law for his own personal benefit are another example of how senior officials in the Trump administration continue to use American taxpayer money to bankroll their lavish lifestyles. Even more concerning are his efforts to mislead investigators after he was caught.”
Long last week—as his home state of North Carolina was still staggering from the floods caused by Hurricane Florence—agreed to reimburse the agency for the personal travel expenses. He and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen issued statements saying he would stay on the job.
One official did suffer punishment as a result of the IG probe. John Veatch, FEMA’s assistant administrator for National Continuity Programs, was suspended without pay, according to a report by Politico.