The U.S. Justice Department
rejected Wednesday a request by Rep. Jo Ann Davis that it
investigate accusations of fraud within the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, triggering angry responses from Hurricane Isabel
Davis, R-Gloucester, said more than 100 Virginia
families were still living in trailers after their homes were
damaged by Isabel in September 2003. She thinks that many of them
have not been compensated fairly through the National Flood
Insurance Program, which FEMA oversees.
and several activists and homeowners have alleged that conflicts of
interest within FEMA prevented homeowners from getting fair
settlements. FEMA critics said Wednesday that government agencies
like the Justice Department seemed unwilling to investigate
"This is the mother of all cover-ups," said Fred
Gentry, a former North Carolina resident who lost his home to Isabel
Gentry said he met with Davis to complain about his
insurance settlement from the national flood program.
going to take responsibility?" he asked.
In her Nov. 29
request to the Justice Department, Davis said congressional
testimony revealed that an insurance industry lawyer representing
big insurers in the flood insurance program also trained FEMA's
flood claim adjusters.
FEMA oversees a national pot of money
that comes from flood insurance premiums paid by homeowners who have
policies through private companies.
The companies get to keep
a percentage of the flood insurance premiums.
In a letter
dated Feb. 28 - which Davis' office received by fax Wednesday -
Assistant Attorney General William E Moschella wrote that his office
didn't investigate allegations of crimes, it prosecuted
"If any person believes he or she has credible
evidence of violations of federal law, they should contact the local
branch office of the FBI for information or assistance," he
Moschella also wrote that legal and ethical
considerations prevented his office from confirming or denying the
existence of "particular matters or investigations."
a vague reference to cases prosecuted by U.S. attorneys' offices
recently - cases involving "fraud or bribery by FEMA employees or
contract employees, including cases in Texas and
He didn't provide any details about the cases,
though he noted that they were a matter of public
Davis said her staff was unaware of any prosecutions
against FEMA involving Isabel victims in Virginia.
we'll have to go looking for them," Davis said.
to make some phone calls and do some digging and find out if it is,
in fact, true."
She said she still planned to seek a
congressional hearing on FEMA's handling of flood claims after
That could happen between April and October, she
Davis isn't alone in calling for an expanded probe of
FEMA. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., also has petitioned the Justice
Three members of Congress from Maryland -
Republican Rep. Melissa Hart and Democratic Sens. Paul Sarbanes and
Barbara Mikulski - want investigations by the House Financial
Services Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental
Steve Kanstoroom, a Maryland-based
activist, said the Justice Department's lack of help wouldn't
prevent FEMA's transgressions from becoming public.
speaks volumes that it took the (Justice Department) 90 days to tell
a member of Congress, 'It's not our job,' " said Kanstoroom, who
manages an Internet site, femainfo.us, that lists FEMA
"It's inevitable that the public will learn
what's happened here and the depth and magnitude of the wrongdoing."