WASHINGTON – Former FEMA chief Michael Brown is no longer on the agency's payroll, the Homeland Security Department said Wednesday, ending nearly two months of compensation after he resigned under fire.
Brown stepped down as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Sept. 12 in the wake of the government's sluggish reaction to Hurricane Katrina and questions about his own disaster response experience. He remained on the FEMA payroll until Nov. 2, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said.
Initially, Brown was permitted to continue collecting his $148,000 annual salary for 30 days after he resigned. Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he extended Brown's contract for an additional 30 days, until mid-November, to help the agency complete its review of the response to Katrina.
But Brown ended his contract early, said Knocke, responding to an inquiry about House Democratic demands to remove Brown from the payroll.
In a letter to Chertoff on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Brown's contract was "inexplicable and a gross waste of taxpayer dollars."
"It is difficult to imagine anyone less qualified to assess FEMA's failed response to Katrina and make recommendations for improving the agency," they said.
Brown had said in an earlier interview about his extended work that he was "motivated to wrap it up."
After he resigned, Brown had no decision-making or management responsibilities at FEMA.
Chertoff had defended keeping Brown on for an extended period, saying, "It's important to allow the new people who have the responsibility ... to have access to the information we need to do better. We don't want to sacrifice the real ability to get a full picture of Mike's experiences; we don't want to sacrifice that ability simply in order to make an image point."