November 9, 2007
FEMA’s Press Secretary Aaron Walker, one of the members of the public affairs department asking questions at the staged press conference two weeks ago resigned following an internal FEMA investigation. PRNewser quoted Walker in an earlier post about Director of External Affairs Pat Philbin.
According to an email to PRNewser, Walker was planning to leave for the past two months, “My goal was to stay on through 2 hurricane seasons. We’re planning to have our second child in about 3 weeks and move home to Utah to be near family. My post a FEMA was one of the greatest jobs I’ve ever had and enjoyed every minute of it.”
PRNewser wonders about how objective the internal inquiry could possibly be if conducted by its own person from Department of Homeland Security. With a massive damage control problem breaking now regarding high levels of toxic formaldehyde in tens of thousands of trailers, it looks like FEMA needs to assign blame and move on.
October 30, 2007
On the heels of another mia culpa statement from FEMA, PRNewser received another anonymous leak with the full text of an all-staff memo sent today by Administrator David Paulison. The memo lays out the “egregious decision making” of the Director of External Affairs (John “Pat” Philbin) and his staff.
October 29, 2007
MEMORANDUM FOR: All FEMA Employees
FROM: R. David Paulison Administrator
SUBJECT: External Affairs Reforms Following Tuesday’s Press Conference
October 29, 2007
The moment we received John Philbin’s going-away memo from FEMA via anonymous tip, we immediately used Philbin’s personal email address included to find out more.
Mr. Philbin responded almost immediately, expressing disappointment that we did not seek his comment on the situation sooner. Prior to writing this, I wrote back, explaining that by the time I began my reporting process, his FEMA email was already on auto-reply and his colleagues would only refer me to the statement regarding the problem. After a few reply, PRNewser received a quote from FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker concerning Philbin’s new position at ODNI (now rescinded).
Here is Philbin’s personal email to PRNewser, in its entirety:
I am disappointed that prnewser is now seeking a comment when you didn’t ask for a statement when news about the briefing emerged. I did not orchestrate or direct a “fake” media brief as has been characterized in press reports nor did I direct staff to ask questions. FEMA sought to deliver information quickly following a video teleconference about the California fires. The information provided was timely and accurate; however, I should have intervened when staff began asking questions because no media had arrived. I regret not acting in the moment as I should have. As the person in charge, this was my responsibility.
I have spent my entire time at FEMA working long hours and weekends improving its transparency, employee communications and external affairs operations. I regret this has transpired in the manner it has. FEMA is a terrific organization with loyal employees who are committed to helping disaster victims–and it is unfortunate that this message is getting lost in this story.
I respect the Director and understand ODNI’s concerns as a result of this situation.
October 29, 2007
PRNewser has just come in to possession of John “Pat” Philbin’s going-away email, dated October 18th. The news of Philbin’s new job at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was reported in the last line of the Washington Post’s story about FEMA’s apology for staging the fake press conference, confirmed by ODNI’s spokeswoman Vanee Vines. PRNewser also confirmed the job change from FEMA’s press secretary Aaron Walker.
Following Homeland Security’s Michael Chertoff’s “Anglo-Saxon” call for disciplinary action, Philbin no longer has a job at ODNI. The AP and Reuters reported that according to a statement from ODNI, Philbin “is not, nor scheduled to be the director of public affairs.”
PRNewser’s call and email to Ms. Vines were not returned. FEMA’s media department promised to get back to us. We received the full text–complete with Philbin’s personal email (not printed here)–of what appears to be Philbin’s going-away email this afternoon. It is was addressed to over 70 staffers at FEMA:
From: Philbin, John (Pat) Sent: Thursday, October 18, 2007 12:17 PM
Subject: Transition Note from Pat Sensitivity: Personal Team
Please accept my sincere appreciation to all those whom I have had the pleasure to work with since my arrival last year. FEMA attracts terrific people with enormous passion to help those in need—and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time learning to appreciate this wonderful quality. Although I understood my time with FEMA was limited, I did not anticipate that it would end so soon—or as abruptly. Under most circumstances, I envisioned remaining through the end of the Administration.