A newly released report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has determined that FEMA administrator William “Brock” Long misused government vehicles and staff on 40 trips for personal reasons, costing taxpayers roughly $150,000 in staff salary and travel-related expenses, according to the Washington Post.
Those trips often involved transportation to and from airports and homes, and one instance in which he mixed business and vacation on a trip to Hawaii with his family and was driven by an aide to a pineapple plantation.
According to a joint statement issued last week by Long and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Nielsen has ordered Long to repay the government “as appropriate.”
From December through April, investigators secretly surveilled Long, according to the Post. During that time, he was driven repeatedly in government SUVs from his D.C. apartment to FEMA headquarters or from the Charlotte airport to his home in Hickory, North Carolina, for weekend visits. During personal trips to North Carolina, aides who transported him stayed in hotels at taxpayer expense and were paid overtime. At the trip in Hawaii, after Long had finished his official business, an aide drove the family to a Dole pineapple plantation and a volcano.
Last week, it was reported that a long-simmering feud between Nielsen and Long had flared up when the DHS inspector general referred the investigation into Long’s misuse of government vehicles to criminal prosecutors. Long reportedly felt “devastated and betrayed,” and he complained that Nielsen had promised to give him a copy of the investigation’s preliminary findings. On Friday, officials said Long would not face charges.
According to the Post, Long has defended the use of government vehicles by saying their classified communications equipment is necessary if he needs to speak with senior government officials. His drivers told investigators that he has never used the equipment. The memo also noted that FEMA aides told Long in October he could no longer use official vehicles for his commute, but he continued his trips afterward.
Long is only the most recent member of the administration to run into trouble over the misuse of taxpayer money. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price lost his job over a scandal involving his use of charter jets for official travel. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has faced a number of investigations, including ones into his use of private charter planes and government helicopters, his spending nearly $140,000 on the doors in his office, and his visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands, officially on government business, where he attended a Republican fundraising event; and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, the most scandal-ridden member of the administration, resigned after countless scandals related to the abuse of his power in pursuit of a lavish lifestyle.