Erich Wagner | July 30, 2018 | 0 Comments

FEMA Executive Ousted Over 'Deeply Disturbing' Sexual Misconduct Allegations

FEMA Chief Component Human Capital Officer Corey Coleman resigned June 18. FEMA Chief Component Human Capital Officer Corey Coleman resigned June 18. Brittany Trotter/FEMA file photo

The Federal Emergency Management Agency late Monday released the executive summary of a report outlining allegations of misconduct against its former top human resources official, including sexual harassment of multiple employees, retaliation and favoritism towards his friends and fraternity brothers.

While the redacted summary did not name the official, a FEMA spokesperson confirmed Monday that Corey Coleman was the chief human capital officer for FEMA until he resigned June 18, before he was to be interviewed by FEMA investigators. The investigation, which included interviews with 73 witnesses and 98 statements, found that Coleman had created a “toxic” workplace culture, where employees who questioned his decisions “feared being undermined, denied promotion, or terminated.”

Coleman had been the agency’s human capital chief since October 2013, and according to a bio recently scrubbed from FEMA’s website, joined the agency in 2011 upon his appointment to the Senior Executive Service. He previously led the Human Resources Information Technology Division at the Secret Service and worked in HR positions at Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

According to the report summary, in which all names are redacted, Coleman entered into at least two sexual relationships with subordinates since 2015. In one case, he allegedly assigned her “to a desirable work project” after their relationship began and brought her with him on official travel. But once she refused to continue the relationship, she was “subsequently denied promotion and notified that her . . . position would be terminated.”

In another instance, Coleman allegedly had an inappropriate relationship with another subordinate from 2017 until 2018. Investigators found that at one point, when this employee wanted to leave the agency, Coleman “created a disaster-funded position for her for which she was (by her own admission) poorly qualified, and that it was not appropriately disaster funded.”

The report also documents multiple instances where Coleman inappropriately circumvented the competitive hiring process to hire friends and fraternity brothers. In one instance, he reportedly posted a vacancy for three business days, rather than the recommended five days to give an advantage to his friend.

He also reportedly hired a fraternity brother who lacked “any significant human capital experience,” and a supervisor in the office said he “stated on a number of occasions that he liked to hire his fraternity brothers and friends because he could trust them.”

In a statement Monday, FEMA Administrator Brock Long described the allegations as “deeply disturbing,” and said he would forward the investigation to the Homeland Security Department’s Office of the Inspector General, as well as revamp the agency’s harassment policies.

“Results of a recent internal investigation concerning allegations of sexual misconduct against the former chief component human capital officer leave me no choice but to take decisive action to address lapses in professional responsibility, including requesting further investigation by the DHS Office of the Inspector General,” Long said. “[Anyone] who disagrees with this zero tolerance approach will not be welcome at FEMA.”

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Long said he will establish an Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate future allegations of misconduct, particularly sexual harassment. He said he also plans for a third party to review FEMA’s approach to investigating and resolving misconduct allegations. In addition, he called for an analysis of all open complaints by the director of the agency’s Office of Equal Rights, including a review of cases that employees say were inadequately addressed.

Long also said he will mandate that all FEMA employees undergo training on sexual harassment reporting and response, and the agency will provide counseling services and health and wellness advisers to all employees “who may not have received the support they needed in the past.”

In an anonymous review of FEMA’s Human Capital Office on Glassdoor.com, a former employee called Coleman out by name and described the office as “an extremely chaotic place to work.”

“The man knows exactly what he can get away with and pushes the limits as far as he can, while ‘leadership’ above him is standing by and doing nothing to stop him,” the person wrote.

Although Coleman's LinkedIn account was live Monday morning, it has since been scrubbed from the website. A publicly listed phone number for Coleman was not in service.

In a statement, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said his committee will investigate the matter.

“The revelations in today’s FEMA report are deeply alarming,” he said. “Any agency employee, much less the top human resources official, engaging in pervasive harassment, bullying and gross misconduct is disturbing and enraging. It is equally concerning this behavior was allowed to continue for so long.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., issued a statement with more detail about the nature of the allegations against Coleman.

“Today’s report reveals that one of FEMA’s top human resources officials—whose job it was to secure a safe and stable work environment—abused his subordinates by demanding sexual favors and then punishing or rewarding employees based on whether they complied with or rejected his demands," Cummings said. "I commend FEMA for conducting this internal investigation, and I believe the oversight committee should hold hearings on this report and other critical management failures at FEMA right away.”

This story has been updated with additional information. 

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