FEMA official under investigation over sex misconduct
WASHINGTON — The former personnel director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who resigned just weeks ago, is under investigation after being accused of creating an atmosphere of widespread sexual harassment over several years, the agency’s leader said Monday.
The allegations include hiring women as possible sexual partners for male employees, said FEMA Administrator William Long.
The alleged harassment and other misconduct, revealed through a preliminary seven-month internal investigation, was a ‘‘systemic problem going on for years,’’ Long said. Some of the behavior could rise to the level of criminal activity, he added.
Some of the claims about the agency’s former personnel chief are detailed in a written executive summary of the investigation provided to The Washington Post.
FEMA officials provided other details and confirmed that the individual under investigation, whose name was redacted from the report, is Corey Coleman, who led the personnel department from 2011 until his resignation in June.
Coleman could not immediately be reached for comment, and no one answered the door at his Northeast Washington home when a Washington Post reporter visited Monday. Coleman resigned June 18, before a scheduled interview with investigators, and FEMA officials said they have not been able to question him since.
Online records show Coleman was a senior executive who was paid an annual salary of $177,150.
In an interview, Long described a ‘‘toxic’’ environment in the human resources department Coleman had led at
FEMA headquarters, hiring dozens of men who were friends and college fraternity brothers and women he met at bars and on online dating sites.
Coleman then promoted them to roles throughout the agency without going through proper federal hiring channels, Long said.
Coleman transferred some of the women in and out of departments, some to regional offices, so his friends could try to have sexual relationships with them, according to statements and interviews with employees, said a FEMA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing.
‘‘What we uncovered was a systemic problem going back years,’’ Long said. He said he has referred several cases to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, who oversees FEMA, to investigate possible criminal assault.
‘‘The biggest problem I may solve here may be the eradication of this cancer,’’ Long said. ‘‘How many complaints were not heard? I’ve got to make sure we have a safe working environment for our employees.’’
Long said the problems extend beyond Coleman. The investigation is ‘‘not going to stop with him,’’ he said.
The misconduct went back as far as 2015, said Long, who received a direct complaint from an employee, who said Coleman sexually harassed her, and forwarded it to the general counsel’s office, which started the internal investigation.
Coleman was hired at FEMA in 2011 as deputy personnel chief from the Secret Service, where he was chief human resources officer for the information technology department.