Saturday, July 10, 2010

Profiles-The General Counsels--Patricia M. Gormley

The very first non-career GC of FEMA had an interesting background. A Marine officer and female, Pat had transferred to the Navy and Naval JAG corps after completing law school at Catholic University in Washington DC. Widowed and remarried, Pat was the first female 4-striper in Navy JAG. That is slang for the exalted Naval rank of Captain the equivalent of full Colonel in the Army and Airforce. After retirement she became the GS-15 Counsel to the Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She then was selected in August 1990 as both the first NON-CAREER GC for FEMA and obviously the first female GC. She came in after the appointment and confirmation of Wallace Stickney but had the misfortune to be preceded by three months by another political appointee Kathryn M. Newman, as Deputy GC and Acting GC of FEMA for three months. It is not that Ms. Newman did not have intelligence and competence but ususally it seems more successful when GC's can pick their own deputies. They both served until the end of the George H.W. Bush Administration in January 1993.

Without the complete failure of FEMA in its response efforts in Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, Ms. Gormley probably would be considered the strongest of the persons who ever served in the GC positions in FEMA. Reason, she was in fact a career lawyer but masked as a political one and very competent in dealing with the personalities she found in FEMA. Except me of course. Confession, I was strongly attracted Pat as a person and lawyer and would have jumped any hoops she asked me to but in the death throes of the Administration she issued a letter of reprimand to me that was ordered by those above her in FEMA ranks. Oddly like many other occasions neither my position in GC was threatened nor my pay. My grievance and appeal was denied but jurisdiction over the matter was accepted by the Officer of the Special Counsel which I did not pursue. Why? The main culprits had departed. What did I do? Decide against the agency as an alternated dispute resolution officer and the letter of reprimand was based on my faxing to outside counsel a document that read in its entirety "There are no FEMA documents relating to this matter." This was determined to be an unauthorized release of a legal opinion resulting in the letter of reprimand. The fact that I was in physical possession of a stack of documents generated within FEMA and its contractors relating to the matter was of course not the issue. Pat is if alive still living in Portland Maine and I am hoping someone sends her this so she can correct anything she believes in error. The reprimand was grateful upheld of course by Spence W. Perry returning as the Acting GC of FEMA from January 1993 to September 1993 or 94 when John Carey arrived from the White House personnel office.

Why do I have such respect for Pat? First she forced the denizens of the Office of the General Counsel to work hard and issued the longest written opinions in FEMA's history. That record if still available is unassailable. Hey to some extent it was a love-hate relationship with Pat and ME. But I still wish she had been in FEMA longer and hoping still for the best for she and her husband.

Remember that I was acting Associate GC for GENERAL LAW one year under Pat while she picked a permanent Associate. All in OGC and the Agency knew I hated the portfolio of the General Law division including, contracts, FOIA, personnel matters and ethics. And they also knew I did now want the job. But I had some fun. For example, I had a visit from the head of procurement in FEMA, Robert Boyer who had fled the Navy's civilian ranks to come to FEMA and after hiding out in FEMA for several years returned to the Navy. What was the visit about--6,000 unauthorized contracts issued by various people in FEMA. My solution lasted almost one year and was dissolved within a month by my permanent replacement, Robert Brock as Associate GC.

I also learned that most of the HUMAN RESOURCES OFFICE in FEMA lacked knowledge of their jobs so helped with that. But what I really liked about Pat is she let me fill my old job for the CY 1992 with a temporary attorney, a friend, DAVID A. ROSS, a brilliant Yale and Duke educated attorney who worked many different issues during his one year appointment.

[Correction to post offered by David Ross-LT GEN Richard Trefry, former Army IG, was selected by the board members as the head of the group though Gen Goodpaster was the senior military member] Pat and Dave's most important role during that time was legal support to FEMA's Security Practices Board of Review which consisted of among others retired GENERAL Andrew Goodpaster, Robert Kupperman, Lori Jean, Deputy Regional Director of FEMA Region IX, Ambassador Julia Taft, and Colonel Peter Dabrowski, Ret. Military Liaison to FEMA from DOD, and Lt. General Trefry, Ret. Its devastating analysis of misuse of personnel security in FEMA stands as a landmark for all federal Executive Branch components and has been discussed elsewhere on this blog.
See report at URL:  [Bottom of page]

So Pat and Dave you did you jobs well and are lasting in your contributions to federal service. Thanks so much for being fundamentally decent and brilliant people.

And then of course on January 20, 1993, Spence W. Perry returned as Acting GC of FEMA. Clearances all restored by the Acting Director William C. Tidball.