Senior FEMA official suspended in relation to Long investigation

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A senior official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been suspended without pay related to a Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigation into whether FEMA Administrator Brock Long used government vehicles for personal reasons, according to an administration official.

John Veatch was suspended last Friday as the agency was responding to Hurricane Florence, according to Politico, which first reported the suspension. Veatch has been the assistant administrator for FEMA’s National Continuity Programs Directorate since May 2017. He was also the chief of the FEMA National Response Coordination Center during the 2017 hurricane season, according to the agency’s website.

It wasn’t clear how Veatch may have been involved.

FEMA referred CNN to DHS for comment. DHS referred CNN to the DHS inspector general’s office. The inspector general’s office said in a statement that it does not have “involvement in personnel decisions for DHS components” and referred CNN to FEMA.

Last week, the DHS inspector general confirmed to CNN that it is investigating Long’s use of government vehicles. The investigation includes, but may not be limited to, travel using government resources, and that would include the administrator’s travel in government vehicles on the taxpayer’s dime, the source told CNN. The investigation was first reported by Politico.

Long is driven seven days a week and 24 hours a day — so any of his movements are in government vehicles. This would include travel to his home in Hickory, North Carolina.

House Oversight Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy asked Long on Monday for information and documents on the administrator’s use of government-owned or leased vehicles for personal reasons. The South Carolina Republican also requested information about FEMA employees who were “tasked with accompanying” Long on trips “to or from North Carolina.”

Gowdy asked that the information be returned to the committee by Oct. 1.

The investigation was referred to federal prosecutors to determine whether criminal charges should be pursued on the same day Gowdy requested the information from Long, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Long said on Monday that his attention remains on hurricane response.

“I am not focused on this investigation,” Long said in a statement. “I am fully focused on those impacted by Hurricane Florence.”