Emails Give Insight Into Michael Brown's Leadership

As great a communication tool as email is, it can also end up biting you. I’m forever amazed at how lackadaisical people can be with this technology. Without much of a thought, they’ll share their most intimate secrets, sensitive corporate data, personal information like credit card numbers or social security numbers. People forget that email lasts forever. It’s permanent, and can be forwarded on to and read by people who were never suppose to receive it. Given it’s easy of use and ubiquitousness, most people forget how dangerous email can be. Yet, day-after-day, we hear the stories about the email that got Jane fired, or the email that got Sam busted, or the email that led to the divorce of a husband from his wife.

And today, we have yet another story of email being used to communicate personal thoughts that weren’t intended to be public.

A Louisiana congressman says e-mails written by the government’s emergency response chief as Hurricane Katrina raged show a lack of concern for the unfolding tragedy and a failure in leadership.

Rep. Charlie Melancon, whose district south of New Orleans was devastated by the hurricane, posted a sampling of e-mails (PDF) written by Federal Emergency Management chief Michael Brown on his Web site on Wednesday.

The e-mails Melancon posted, a sampling of more than 1,000 provided to the House committee now assessing responses to Katrina by all levels of government, also show Brown making flippant remarks about his responsibilities.

“Can I quit now? Can I come home?” Brown wrote to Cindy Taylor, FEMA’s deputy director of public affairs, the morning of the hurricane.

A few days later, Brown wrote to an acquaintance, “I’m trapped now, please rescue me.”

In the midst of the overwhelming damage caused by the hurricane and enormous problems faced by FEMA, Mr. Brown found time to exchange e-mails about superfluous topics,” including “problems finding a dog-sitter,” Melancon said.

Melancon said that on August 26, just days before Katrina made landfall, Brown e-mailed his press secretary, Sharon Worthy, about his attire, asking: “Tie or not for tonight? Button-down blue shirt?”

A few days later, Worthy advised Brown: “Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt, all shirts. Even the president rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this [crisis] and on TV you just need to look more hard-working.”

It gets worse.

On August 29, the day of the storm, Brown exchanged e-mails about his attire with Taylor, Melancon said. She told him, “You look fabulous,” and Brown replied, “I got it at Nordstroms. Are you proud of me?”

An hour later, Brown added: “If you’ll look at my lovely FEMA attire, you’ll really vomit. I am a fashion god,” according to the congressman.

Is that priceless or what?

Email has a way of revealing the real person inside the suit, and in this case, it confirms everything everyone suspected about Michael Brown. The man was simply the wrong person for such an important job. His email messages prove that.

Have you read your own email lately?

Related: USATODAY – Boeing scandal highlights e-mail checks | TechWeb – 1 in 5 companies have sacked employees over email abuse | WIRED – Daemon Seed: Old email never dies |

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