Melancon, along with Republican Rep. Tom Davis, is leading the House Select Committee investigating the government response to Hurricane Katrina. The two representatives wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff in late September and requested DHH documents and internal communications from the weeks following Katrina's landfall. More than 900 pages of e-mails were released on Oct. 18, and Melancon and his staff analyzed the correspondence. What they found was shocking incompetence on the part of former FEMA Director Michael Brown ' and last week they posted the e-mails and analysis on Melancon's Web site for the world to see. More than 300,000 visitors requested or downloaded the documents the day they were put up.
"I'm not looking to go and beat up on anybody, but it's quite obvious [Brown] was not doing his job," says Melancon by phone from his Washington, D.C., office. "Some people are saying, 'Melancon's trying to hurt the president [with these documents]. But these are documents that the majority allowed to be released. My concern is that the people back home are only going to hear what little bit makes it in the news, and it's hard to cover everything in this matter. So I said, 'Put 'em up on the Web site.'"
In the e-mails ' written during the most critical phases of post-Katrina relief efforts ' Brown appears more concerned with his image, his clothes, and finding a dog-sitter. On the morning Katrina hit, a FEMA public affairs representative complimented Brown on a television appearance, and he e-mailed back, "I got it at Nordstroms. Are you proud of me?" An hour later, Brown e-mailed again to say, "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god."
In perhaps the most damning exchange, FEMA employee Marty Bahamonde in New Orleans e-mailed Brown the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 31. Bahamonde wrote, "Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical. Here are some things you might not know. Hotels are kicking people out, thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water. Hundreds still being rescued from homes.
"The dying patients at the DMAT tent being medivac [sic]. Estimates that many will die within hours. Evacuation in process. Plans developing for dome evacuation but hotel situation adding to problem. We are out of food and running out of water at the dome, plans in works to address the critical need. FEMA staff is OK and holding own. DMAT staff working in deplorable conditions. â?¦ Phone connectivity impossible."
Brown's response? "Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?" The same day, Brown wrote another e-mail: "Can I quit now? Can I come home?"
Such correspondence hardly supports Brown's previous testimony before Congress about his job performance. "I get it when it comes to emergency management," Brown testified on Sept. 27. "I know what it's all about." Melancon says he looked at all Brown's e-mails to put them in context. "There's always some time for levity, and I could have looked at some of these e-mails and said, 'Well, the guy's got a sense of humor.' But I don't see him giving orders, and I don't see any leadership."
Brown's failures are undeniable, but questions remain about other federal government employees and agencies. Brown testified that he exchanged e-mails with White House officials ' including Chief of Staff Andrew Card ' but none of those e-mails have been turned over to the House Select Committee for Katrina response. Melancon and Davis have also requested e-mail communications involving Chertoff, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others, but the Bush administration has not complied with the request.
"We haven't gotten anything from the White House or the Pentagon, and Chertoff hasn't responded to the request," says Melancon.
Melancon notes that the request for documents ' with an Oct. 14 deadline ' also extended to the state level, including Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. He says that Blanco has requested a 90-day extension to produce documentation, while Barbour and Riley have yet to respond.
The lack of cooperation at the federal level has been frustrating for Melancon, and he remains unsure whether the White House or DHH will ever release the documents. And he has other pressing matters at hand. "I have a thousand things going every day ' shrimpers' problems, oyster farmers' problems, sugar cane farmers' problems ' and this is a part-time committee that expires in February. Our focus should be on the disaster areas and getting people back on their feet."
American companies export smog; UN calls for cease-fire in Gaza; fist bump keeps germ transfer down and more national and international news for Monday, July 28, 2014.
Monday's Blogs from the Bog!
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.
Advocate columnist and Jindal shill Quin Hillyer has been against the New Orleans levee board lawsuit from day one, but a recent piece targeting author/activist John Barry prompted the perfect rebuttal from the board’s former vice-president, who takes Hillyer to task on just about every distorted claim he’s made on the issue.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010.
The lone Democrat to announce he's running for governor, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, criticized Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics as "running the state like a big Ponzi scheme."