EMA director asked

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 25, 2005

to resign

By

The Selma Times-Journal

The Selma Ministerial Association asked the Dallas County Commission to remove Emergency Management Director Brett Howard Monday.

Claiming that Howard &8220;expresses very little concern for the citizens of Selma’s safety,&8221; the Association &045; composed of area Baptist ministers &045; said they didn’t think Howard should continue as head of the EMA at a press conference held on the steps of the Dallas County Courthouse annex.

The Association’s criticism revolved around Howard’s actions during and after Hurricane Katrina, especially in regard to the needs of evacuees within Dallas County.

The Association said that in the aftermath of Katrina, Howard showed disregard for the safety of human life, encouraged churches and pastors not to bring evacuees into the county, closed shelters prematurely, stated inaccurate numbers concerning evacuees, failed to communicate properly with area residents, expressed no concern for the citizens of Selma and didn’t make a Katrina plan public.

They made their complaints official after the press conference, by presenting a resolution calling for Howard’s job at Monday’s Dallas County Commission meeting.

In that resolution, they said Howard told them in meetings on Sept. 16 and 17 not to bring evacuees to Dallas County.

Also, they claim Howard told them he wasn’t concerned about the wants and needs of Selma’s citizens.

Ruffin said members of the Association told him Selma’s citizens pay county taxes, which are also part of his salary.

The commission said they would respond to the Association’s charges later, but expressed support for Howard.

They said they believed Howard had performed admirably as EMA director, citing commendations he’d received from the Alabama EMA for his work.

As for the comments Howard allegedly made, Jones said he wasn’t aware of them, but they would be looked into.

He did, however, hint at how he personally felt about the allegations.

After Katrina, Dallas County became the temporary – and in some cases permanent – home for at least a hundred evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi. It isn’t clear how many evacuees sought shelter in the area, but estimates ranged from 200 to 600 at one point.

Howard said, at the time, that most of these evacuees were staying with relatives and friends as far as he knew.

At first, the Black Belt Chapter of the American Red Cross opened several shelters in Dallas County. According to officials at the time, many of them were unoccupied after Katrina.

The last shelter, at Westwood Baptist, closed two days after the storm when the Red Cross determined there wasn’t a need for it, ARC interim director Jakki Phillips said in a meeting last month.

Howard did say, after the commission meeting, that he has no responsibility over when shelters are opened or closed. He said that decision rests with the ARC.