Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee want to know what action the Federal Emergency Management Agency took in response to multiple reports of sexual harassment and general misconduct by a high-ranking official.
Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Gary Peters, D-Mich., sent letters Aug. 27 to both the FEMA administrator and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General requesting information on how the agency responded to complaints against FEMA Chief Component Human Capital Officer Corey Coleman.
According to the letter to FEMA, the DHS OIG first received a sexual misconduct complaint against Coleman May 1, 2017, alleging that he had improper sexual relationships with two employees. An internal investigation into the complaint, however, did not begin until December of that year.
FEMA employees had also lodged a total of eight complaints alleging nonsexual misconduct by Coleman and 14 referencing him since his tenure at the agency began in 2011.
According to the Committee news release, the allegations include reports that Coleman had sexual relationships with subordinate employees, promised promotions in exchange and hired personal friends for positions they were unqualified for.
“We need to get to the bottom of what happened in this case and get a better understanding of why it took so long to respond to initial allegations,” said McCaskill.
“I’m proud to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle to hold government agencies accountable and to make sure allegations of sexual misconduct and mismanagement are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.”
FEMA’s procedures for handling sexual harassment and misconduct complaints were found to be ineffective in a July 2017 Government Accountability Office review, as such procedures were unable to ensure that all cases referred to FEMA by the DHS OIG — as Coleman’s was — were properly accounted for, reviewed and addressed.
The senators requested that FEMA provide information on the investigation into allegations against Coleman, each of the complaints made to the FEMA Office of Equal Rights, the DHS OIG referrals to FEMA regarding Coleman, a copy of the FEMA administrative investigation manual and an update on planned IT purchases for a case management system at the agency by Sept. 10.
The senators also requested that DHS OIG provide details of the complaints against Coleman, any complaints the office may have received while Coleman was working at the Secret Service, any investigations the OIG is participating in, the DHS OIG referral policy for sexual misconduct allegations and any potential review of those policies by the same date.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.