Former FEMA head of personnel accused of sexual misconduct

July 30, 2018 - 6:12 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's personnel office had improper sexual relationships with subordinates and created a "toxic" work environment that included giving preferential treatment to his fraternity brothers, according to a summary of an internal investigation obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

FEMA officials said Corey Coleman resigned June 18 amid the probe. The preliminary investigation began in January and was completed Friday.

FEMA administrator Brock Long said in a statement Monday that he was referring the case to the internal watchdog of its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, which could investigate any claims of possible criminal sexual assault. But victims would have to go to police for any charges to result.

"Anyone who disagrees with this zero tolerance approach will not be welcome at FEMA," Long said. "Employees at FEMA devote their careers to caring for disaster survivors in their time of greatest need. We must care for our own with the same respect, compassion and advocacy that we bring to our external operations."

Coleman is not named in the summary, but officials at the agency confirmed details in the report referred to him. A call to his home Monday wasn't returned.

According to the summary, after Coleman had a sexual relationship with one subordinate in 2015, he continued to pressure her for dates. When she refused, she was denied a promotion.

He had a second inappropriate relationship two years later with another subordinate, according to the report.

Coleman granted preferential treatment to fraternity brothers, according to the report, in part because he said he could "trust them."

It said he intimidated staff and created a management structure in which he was the foremost hiring and firing authority, in part to circumvent subordinates who might question him. Investigators interviewed 73 witnesses and took 98 statements.

The allegations were first reported by The Washington Post . Long told the newspaper that investigators uncovered a systemic problem going back years.

Long said in the statement that he is creating an office to ensure fair follow-up on claims of employee misconduct, and to conduct a third-party review on the management of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the agency.

The Post reported, citing unnamed sources, that Coleman also transferred some of the women he hired to regional offices so his friends could try to have relationships with them.

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