Embattled US emergency chief resigns three days after losing Katrina relief role

AMERICA’S embattled emergencies chief resigned last night three days after losing his onsite command of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown said yesterday he resigned “in the best interest of the agency and best interest of the president.

“The focus has got to be on FEMA, what the people are trying to do down there,” he said.

His decision was not a surprise. Mr Brown was abruptly recalled to Washington from Louisiana last Friday, a clear vote of no-confidence from his superiors at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr Brown had been criticised for FEMA’s response to the hurricane, which has caused political problems for President Bush.

“I’m turning in my resignation today. I think it’s in the best interest of the agency and the best interest of the president to do that and get the media focused on the good things that are going on, instead of me.”

Mr Brown, who said he last talked to Mr Bush five or six days ago, said the resignation was his idea. He spoke on Saturday to White House chief of staff Andy Card, who did not request his departure.

He said he feared he was becoming a distraction to FEMA’s relief effort.

“I came to the conclusion that this was in the best interest of not just the administration and not just me, but FEMA. They need to be focused on the continuing efforts in the Gulf.”

Shortly after Mr Brown was recalled to Washington, officials close to the FEMA director said he was likely to resign. They said even before Katrina, Mr Brown had been planning to leave later this autumn to go into the private sector.

Only a week before his recall, Mr Bush had publicly praised him, saying “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

Mr Brown emerged as a lightning rod for criticism after appearing unaware of the extent of the humanitarian disaster that unfolded after the hurricane hit.

Three days after the storm passed, with TV networks beaming images of thousands pleading for help in New Orleans Superdome, Mr Brown appeared ignorant of their plight.

His fate was sealed after reports emerged he had padded his resume, lacked real emergency relief experience and owed his job to political cronyism.

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