Women applying to work at FEMA were hired by the former head of personnel based on their sexual desirability, the agency’s head said following a sweeping investigation of alleged sex abuse and possible criminal misconduct.
Brock Long, administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told The Washington Post that the former official is under investigation for creating a “toxic” atmosphere that permitted widespread sexual harassment and a degrading work environment stretching back for years.
The newspaper said that the official’s name had been redacted from the documented, but later was confirmed to be Corey Coleman, who led FEMA’s personnel department from 2011 until his resignation last month. Claims against FEMA’s former personnel chief were outlined in an executive summary of the probe that was made available to the newspaper.
In his interview with The Post, Long described a “toxic” environment in the human resources department led by Coleman, who had hired dozens of men who were friends and former college fraternity brothers. He reportedly also hired women he met at bars and on online dating sites and promoted them to roles throughout the agency without going through proper federal hiring channels.
The Post wrote that Long said some of the misconduct behavior could rise to the level of criminal activity. The daily wrote that online records showed that Coleman — a senior executive who was paid an annual salary of $177,150 — resigned on June 18, just before a scheduled interview with investigators. FEMA officials told The Post that they have been unable to question Coleman since his departure.
Coleman was hired at FEMA in 2011 and was quickly promoted to the job overseeing hiring and all personnel policies for the 20,000-person agency and its 10 regional offices.
He allegedly transferred some of the women in and out of departments, some to regional offices, so his friends could try to have sexual relationships with them, The Post wrote, citing statements from and interviews with employees. “What we uncovered was a systemic problem going back years,” Long said.
“The biggest problem I may solve here may be the eradication of this cancer,” Long continued. “How many complaints were not heard? I’ve got to make sure we have a safe working environment for our employees.”
Long said he has referred several of the cases to the office of the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, which oversees FEMA, to investigate possible criminal sexual assault. He told The Post that investigators interviewed 73 current and former employees and took sworn statements from 98 people as part of its probe.
The news report said many of the men and women Coleman hired have been deemed unqualified for their jobs, but nevertheless remain employed by FEMA.