Long’s improper use of government resources cost taxpayers $94,000 in staff salary, $55,000 in travel expenses and $2,000 in vehicle maintenance, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general determined last year.
Less than two years into a tenure marked by five major hurricanes, multiple lethal wildfires and a tense relationship with his boss, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator William “Brock” Long resigned Wednesday “to go home to my family,” as he put it in an official statement released by the agency. Peter Gaynor, who has served as Long’s deputy, will assume acting administrator duties.
“This is one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make. Thank you for an incredible journey and for the support you have shown me,” Long wrote in a long farewell letter emailed at 3:12 p.m. to FEMA staff.
Long clashed with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in September, when Nielsen appeared intent on forcing Long out of his job in the middle of hurricane season. Just as Hurricane Florence began slamming into the Carolinas, the bitter feud intensified as an internal investigation became public. The inspector general for Homeland Security looked into Long’s use of government vehicles to travel between Washington and his home in North Carolina.
In the middle of the storm, Long told colleagues at FEMA he was on the verge of quitting. But he was popular in the agency and stayed on — until Wednesday, when he surprised his colleagues with his decision to leave.
Long, who had many years of experience in emergency management, easily won Senate confirmation when nominated to the FEMA post two years ago. He was plunged into crisis almost immediately, when Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and dropped multiple feet of rain, flooding Houston and killing dozens of people. That was followed quickly by hurricanes Irma and Maria and controversy over the administration’s response to the latter’s devastation in Puerto Rico, which led to a death toll of nearly 3,000.
This past year saw two more epic hurricanes, Florence and Michael, and fatal wildfires in California.
“No one could have ever predicted the challenges we would face. Over the past two years, we led this Nation through the toughest series of disasters ever experienced — our mission spanning half the globe,” Long wrote in his farewell letter.
He also had to handle internal agency problems. He launched a campaign against sexual harassment, dubbed “Not on My Watch,” in which he vowed to eradicate what he called a “culture” of misconduct he said has persisted at FEMA for years. Last August he revealed misconduct allegations against the agency’s former personnel chief, who Long said was preying on female employees and in some cases transferring them to different offices to be near male staffers.