September 18, 2018 / 1:46 AM / a month ago

Probe of FEMA chief referred to prosecutors: source

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal probe into whether the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, improperly used his government car to commute from Washington to his home in North Carolina has been referred to prosecutors for possible criminal charges, according to a person familiar with the matter.

FILE PHOTO: FEMA Administrator Brock Long listens as U.S. President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting on preparations for hurricane Florence at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The person, who spoke anonymously because the investigation is not public, said Long never had authorization to use a government car to drive to his home in Hickory, North Carolina.

Since his home is more than 50 miles (80 km) away from his work station, he also would have needed to get additional permission before using the car on his commute, the person said on Monday. The number of people who generally receive waivers to drive more than 50 miles is very small.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia accepted the referral and the prosecutors in the Justice Department’s public integrity section are also involved, the person added. A full investigative report has yet to be completed.

The person said Long was also under investigation for improperly using motorcades during the drives to North Carolina and putting aides up in hotels.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the department could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.

Long, the latest Trump administration appointee to face scrutiny over his use of government resources, said in a statement on Monday: “I am not focused on this investigation. I am fully focused on those impacted by Hurricane Florence.”

He told reporters last week he would never intentionally break government rules, following a report that his use of official vehicles was under scrutiny.

“Doing something unethical is not in my DNA, it is not part of my track record,” he added.

Florence, which hit the North Carolina coast on Thursday, has killed 23 people and displaced thousands before turning into a slow-moving storm that threatens deeper flooding in the Carolinas.

Long said in the statement that he would meet with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper on Tuesday to discuss how to help in the storm response and recovery.

The Wall Street Journal, which earlier reported about the referral to prosecutors, said Long and two other federal employees may have broken as many as six laws.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Peter Cooney

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