WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s director of external affais, Pat Philbin, will not be taking up a planned appointment as director of public affairs for the director of national intelligence, following the controversy surrounding a staged “news conference” about the California fires at which FEMA staff posed as reporters and posed softball questions to agency official Harvey Johnson.
National intelligence director Mike McConnell told reporters that Philbin would not be making the planned move, although it was not clear whether the former FEMA public affairs executive offered his resignation or was fired before he could start the job.
Meanwhile, CNN obtained a copy of an internal memo from FEMA chief David Paulison, who said the entire episode “represented egregious decision-making” by Philbin and his staff, who “lost perspective of the core imperative that they preserve the credibility of our agency…. Their actions represented a breach of ethical practice that tore at the credibility of FEMA, the deputy administrator and that of their own office.”
Reporters were given only 15 minutes notice of the news conference, and when they did not show up on time, FEMA employees asked the questions with reporters listening in on a phone line.
Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, will be taking the reins of the FEMA press operation temporarily.