WASHINGTON (AP) – A beleaguered Michael Brown said Friday he doesn’t know why he was removed from his onsite command of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, but he does know the first thing he’ll do when he returns to Washington.

“I’m going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night’s sleep,” Brown told The Associated Press. “And then I’m going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency director spoke from Louisiana before the move was announced by his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Critics called for Brown’s resignation after government agencies seemed sluggish in their response to Katrina.

On Friday, allegations surfaced that Brown had padded his resume. He angrily denied those charges and contended that the White House and FEMA had erred in their descriptions of two of his past jobs.

“This story’s not about me. This story’s about the worst disaster of the history of our country that stretched every government to its limit and now we have to help these victims,” Brown said. “That’s all I’ve wanted to do.”

Brown said he will still oversee FEMA, including housing, victims’ assistance and other aspects of Katrina recovery efforts. But he may not be there for long, according to two officials close to Brown who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss his plans.

They said the FEMA chief had been planning to retire after the hurricane season, and Friday’s action virtually assures his departure.

In the interview, Brown praised his onsite replacement, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, but said the switch was Chertoff’s idea.

“You’d have to ask Secretary Chertoff why he made that decision,” Brown said.

At a news conference later, Chertoff suggested the change came as the Gulf Coast efforts entered a new phase, and that Brown might be needed to manage other potential disasters.

Asked if he was being made a scapegoat, Brown said, “By the press, yes. By the president, no.”

He heatedly denied suggestions by some news organizations that he had padded his resume, answering some charges point by point:

• He was assistant to the city manager in Edmond, Okla. “I have no clue” why the FEMA Web site says he was assistant city manager, an important distinction. Either way, Brown noted that the city’s former mayor, Carl Reherman, has vouched for his involvement in emergency planning. Indeed, Reherman told the AP that Brown “worked hard at everything he did,” including planning for natural and manmade disasters.

• A 2003 White House press release incorrectly says Brown was executive director of the Independent Electrical Contractors, which is headquartered in Virginia. Brown said he worked for the group’s Denver chapter, and he didn’t know why the White House suggested otherwise. Terry Moreland, the group’s Rocky Mountain chapter chief, said Brown was in the post for about six months in 2001, just before he went to FEMA. “People hardly got to know him.”

• Denying allegations to the contrary, Brown said he regularly attended meetings of an Oklahoma retirement home’s development committee.

While waiting for his military flight back to Washington, the FEMA chief accused journalists of rushing to judgment and passing rumors off as fact.

“I’m anxious to get back to D.C. to correct all the inaccuracies and lies,” he said.



On the Net:

Homeland Security Department: http://www.dhs.gov

Federal Emergency Management Agency: http://www.fema.gov


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.