Frank Demands Agency Explain List Gay Employees
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The chairman of a House subcommittee wants officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to testify about why a gay employee was forced to list homosexuals who work for the agency.
″I want to find out what they think they are going, I want to make clear to them that they need to stop this,″ said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of two acknowledged homosexuals in Congress. ″I hope they will simply understand how crazy this is.″
FEMA’s insistence that one of its employees produce a list of homosexuals at the agency ″an outrageous invasion of privacy,″ said Frank, whose House Judiciary subcommittee on administrative law plans to hold hearings next week.
Jerald Johnson, who is gay, told another House subcommittee last month that he was first asked to provide the list during a background check for a security clearance.
Frank said Wednesday he would demand that FEMA destroy the list, which Johnson said he eventually gave the agency as a condition of receiving permission to serve a special one-month assignment in Poland.
″I want to get rid of that list and put an end to this,″ the congressman said.
FEMA’s director, Wallace E. Stickney, said in a statement that security officials asked Johnson to produce the list only after the employee told them he knew that other homosexuals had received security clearances.
Security officials became ″concerned that any FEMA employees concealed their sexual preference and were vulnerable to coercion,″ Stickney said.
He said he has not seen the list, which remains locked in a vault, but added that ″the facts show that homosexuals can be selected for very senior positions in our agency. They receive security clearances as well.″
The existence of the list became public during an April 30 hearing of a House Government Operations subcommittee. The panel was questioning FEMA employees about allegations that the agency’s inspector general had not properly investigated official misuse of government vehicles.
Johnson, 32, had been questioned about his review of allegations that FEMA’s deputy director, Jerry D. Jennings, has used a government car for personal business.
In the course of his testimony, Johnson said senior FEMA officials asked him to provide the list of homosexual employees as part of a background check.
In an interview, Johnson said his supervisors supported his refusal to identify other homosexuals and withdrew the application for the security clearance before it was formally rejected.
Johnson said the issue resurfaced when he sought permission to participate in a management consulting project for the Polish government under the aegis of the German Marshall Fund, which promotes U.S.-German relations.
FEMA’s security office wouldn’t approve his assignment, Johnson said, citing his refusal to cooperate in the earlier background check.
Johnson quoted the memo as saying his refusal to cooperate in the security check made it difficult for the agency to evaluate his ″trustworthiness, reliability and judgment.″
″This was not only ill-founded, but defamatory,″ Johnson said.
After FEMA’s chief of staff, Thomas McQuillan, refused to overturn the security office’s decision, Johnson said he met three times with Stickney.
The director told Johnson that he couldn’t overrule a security decision, according to both Johnson and FEMA spokesman Anthony Venti.
″The decision was to uphold Mr. McQuillan,″ Johnson said. ″I had to give up the list.″