The Federal Emergency Management Agency chief who stepped down earlier this year after a federal probe determined he had misspent public funds on personal travel has reimbursed taxpayers for less than 2% of the costs, Politico reported Friday.
Politico obtained a copy of a check from former FEMA administrator Brock Long for only $2,716. The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security calculated Long spent $151,000 for unauthorized use of government SUVs on at least 40 instances of personal travel. Long used the vehicles — driven by government employees — to travel to his North Carolina home on weekends. He also had his family transported to Hawaiian tourist sights on the taxpayer tab, the inspector general found.
The inspector general agreed not to press criminal charges, and Long agreed to reimburse the government for the costs. But then-Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen afterward granted Long a steep 98% discount on his tab. She said costs had been overestimated by the inspector general, whose office stood by its findings in a comment to Politico. Both DHS and Long told Politico that some of the costs Long incurred were communications expenses he needed to do his job off-site.
Long had a tumultuous tenure as head of FEMA. He was sharply criticized especially for his abysmal handling of the emergency in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
“Between Puerto Rico, Texas and the California wildfires, you don’t have to look very far to find better ways FEMA could have spent $150,000,” Austin Evers, executive director of the watchdog American Oversight, said in a statement to Politico.
It was American Oversight that first obtained a copy of Long’s personal check through a public records request.
The DHS inspector general concluded that Long’s unauthorized use of the vehicles cost taxpayers $94,000 in salaries, $55,000 in travel expenses and $2,000 in vehicle costs.