Panel Votes To Subpoena Witnesses If Necessary
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A House panel voted Wednesday to subpoena federal contractors and a former official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency if they fail to voluntarily testify at a scheduled March 4 hearing on the agency’s alleged misuse of government funds.
The Science and Technology subcommittee on investigations and oversight gave prospective witnesses until Friday to notify the panel they will testify without legal force of a subpoena.
Rep. Harold L. Volkmer, D-Mo., the subcommittee chairman, said the action was taken because without it ″we can’t be sure these individuals will appear.″ Last Dec. 12, FEMA employees ignored subpoenas from then-Rep. Albert Gore, D-Tenn., who ordered them to testify.
Volkmer said he wouldn’t subpoena FEMA employees again because agency director Louis O. Giuffrida assured him by letter they will cooperate.
″I want you to know that I and any FEMA employees your subcommittee may request will be pleased to appear,″ Giuffrida wrote Volkmer in a letter dated Feb. 19.
″As this 99th Congress gets under way, I want to assure you of my personal desire and intention to restore any lost confidence or erosion of relationship that may have occurred as a result of activities during the closing days of the 98th Congress,″ the director wrote.
FEMA officials asked to testify include Giuffrida, deputy director Robert Morris, and executive deputy director Gerald S. Martin.
Former No. 3 FEMA official Fred Villella, who resigned last summer after allegations of sexual harassment and personal use of agency funds, faces a subpoena threat along with three employees each from Triton Corp. and IMR Corp. - firms doing business with the agency.
Also facing a subpoena are attorneys for Triton and IMR.
The subcommittee released documents last year indicating that Triton treated Giuffrida and Villella to a $250 fund-raiser for Vice President George Bush and that payments to Triton were rushed through on orders from top FEMA officials without the usual review.
The documents also show that IMR has apparently double, triple, and quadruple-billed the agency for services and that Giuffrida’s wife took a personal trip abroad at government expense.
Villella resigned after it was charged he spent $170,000 of agency money to convert part of a FEMA building project to a luxury apartment and that he used government personnel and autos for private errands.
A government-paid female chauffer also accused him of sexual harassment and forcing her to perform personal chores such as taking his clothes to the laundry and cashing his checks.
The Justice Department is conducting its own investigation of alleged wrongdoing at FEMA, an agency with a $280 million-a-year budget which is responsible for helping local officials handle disasters.
Meanwhile, the House Government Operations subcommittee on transportation plans hearings in March on charges that FEMA unfairly gave a $90,000 contract to a consulting firm at the urging of influential Republicans.