The Washington Post reported on Monday afternoon that Corey Coleman, the former personnel chief of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) who resigned last month, is under investigation for allegedly allowing a culture of widespread sexual harassment to flourish at the agency.
Among the allegations against him include a charge that Coleman hired and assigned women to roles conducive to his friends trying to have sex with them. Per the Post (emphasis mine):
In an interview, [FEMA Administrator Brock] 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 — then promoting them to roles throughout the agency without going through proper federal hiring channels.
Coleman then 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 investigation is ongoing.
In addition, a preliminary investigation the Post reported was completed on Friday found Coleman had sexual relationships with two subordinates, one in 2015 and another from 2017 that lasted until this year. When the first woman ended the relationship, Coleman denied her a promotion and tried to fire her before she told him she might be willing to go out with him again in an effort to keep her job, the woman told FEMA investigators. According to the agency’s preliminary report, a second woman said when she told Coleman she wanted to leave the agency, he created a new position for her, one she told investigators she was unqualified for.
According to the newspaper, Coleman oversaw hiring and all personnel policies for the 20,000-person agency and its regional offices, but Long said conditions in the department were “so bad” that he was temporarily transferred to other offices on three separate occasions.
The FEMA chief also told the Post that FEMA had a “systemic problem going back years,” and that he and his staff had interviewed 73 current and former employees and took sworn statements from nearly a hundred people. He also said the investigation is “not going to stop” with Coleman.
According to a survey from the Merit Systems Protection Board released in March, more than one in five female employees in the federal government reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace between 2014 and 2016, as opposed to 9% of men. Among the agencies surveyed, sexual harassment of women was highest in the Navy (27% of women), the Department of Veterans Affairs (26%), and the Department of Homeland Security (25%.) Just 11% of those who were harassed said they filed a formal complaint against their harasser; 61% said they simply avoided the person.
Coleman, who was hired by FEMA 2011 after serving as the chief human resources officer for the Secret Service’s IT department, didn’t respond to the Post’s request for comment. He resigned on June 18 ahead of a scheduled interview with investigators, who haven’t been able to question him since then.
“The biggest problem I may solve here may be the eradication of this cancer,” Long told the Post. “How many complaints were not heard? I’ve got to make sure we have a safe working environment for our employees.”