FEMA security boss hired workers with criminal backgrounds

WASHINGTON – A former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief security officer hired four employees with criminal backgrounds, paying them nearly $350,000 in salary, a government inspector said in a report issued Monday.

Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth said the former security chief hired two convicted criminals in 2011. A review of personnel records from 2011 to 2014 found that two other employees hired by the security chief’s office had criminal conduct in their backgrounds. Roth said the security chief, who was not identified by name, knew two of the employees and knew about their backgrounds before hiring them.

The hires cost the agency $349,944 in salary, Roth said. They were fired in 2012.

The report also found that employees in the agency’s Fraud and Internal Investigations Division violated FEMA’s premium pay rules for compensatory time. Additionally, management within the Fraud and Internal Investigations Division was criticized for also allowing employees hired specifically for disaster-related functions to perform other duties.

Roth’s report said that violated at least one federal rule governing how disaster relief money is spent.

Roth recommended that the chief security officer enforce premium pay rules and that the Homeland Security Department’s chief financial officer launch an investigation to determine if any other rule violations occurred.

A FEMA spokesman, Rafael Lemaitre, said the agency agreed with both of Roth’s recommendations. He added that the agency has “taken a number of corrective actions to prevent current and future misuse” of pay rules and improve the Office of the Chief Security Officer.