Published April 12, 2006
NEW ORLEANS – Former FEMA chief Michael Brown, whose name became synonymous with government ineptitude after Hurricane Katrina, may be hired as a consultant by hard-hit St. Bernard Parish.
St. Bernard officials recently met with Brown in Washington to discuss hiring him to help the struggling parish navigate the recovery process. He is expected to meet with members of the parish council on Thursday.
Katrina killed 129 people and destroyed 26,000 homes in the parish, just outside New Orleans.
Some parish leaders denounced the possible hiring.
"It smells to high heaven. I'm a Christian and the Apostle Paul says, `To prove all things, keep the work good and abstain from the very appearance of evil.' This does appear evil, don't it? So we should abstain from hiring him," Councilman Lynn Dean said.
Brown, who resigned under pressure in the days after the Aug. 29 hurricane, initially shouldered the bulk of the criticism for the bungled rescue effort. His image improved somewhat after a tape was released showing Brown warning President Bush the day before the disaster that the storm was going to be "the big one" and that water could flow over the tops of the levees.
In a statement, St. Bernard Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez said the former FEMA director could help the parish deal with the federal agency.
"Were having trouble with some FEMA issues," Rodriguez said. "I think we should hear from him on why and how he could be an asset to a group were putting together."
Like some previous FEMA directors, Brown has formed a consulting company that tries to help businesses and communities negotiate the maze of federal bureaucracy.
Federal rules prohibit him from lobbying his former agency directly for another five months, but he could tell parish officials how to deal with the agency. He has said he hopes to help St. Bernard get publicity for its plight.
In New Orleans, City Council President Oliver Thomas told CNN on Wednesday that he wishes Brown and the other parishes well, but he quoted a line from what he said had become a schoolyard rhyme.
"In New Orleans, we're not down with Michael Brown, we were glad when he left town," he said.