Fred J. Villella resigns post at FEMA
Fred J. Villella, executive deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and associate director for FEMA’s training and fire programs, resigned August 3, 1984, following charges of misuse of funds.
Villella’s resignation came after two days of intensive questioning by the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, Science and Technology Committee of the House of Representatives chaired by Representative Albert Gore, Jr.
According to newspaper reports, Villella spent nearly $170,000 over the allotted $200,000 for renovations to a vacant, two-story governmental building at the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, MD. The downstairs of the building had been converted into a dormitory for visiting firefighters, while the upstairs, the area ip question, underwent extravagant renovations. A gourmet kitchen, microwave oven, fireplace, and remodeled bathroom were some of the improvements Villella was said to have made.
Charles M. Adams, senior evaluator for the Resources, Community and Economic Development Division of the General Accounting Office (GAO), testified that he had expressed concern when the cost of the renovations exceeded the $200,000 cap, said a WASHINGTON SCENE report. The report further stated that GAO investigators said the renovations showed questionable judgment, but did not violate the law.
Villella was also charged with using a security guard, Connie Peresada, as a private chauffeur and personal messenger.
According to the WASHINGTON SCENE, Villella responded to the charges by saying that “I have been thoroughly disgusted by the allegations. These allegations are most damaging to me, my family, and my reputation.” According to WASHINGTON POST reports, FEMA spokesman James L. Holton said that Villella resigned for personal reasons. Villella was also said to have repaid FEMA $1,263 for the personal errands run by Peresada, and reimbursed the government $772 for several months lodging in another building at the Emmitsburg training center.
Holton said in a WASHINGTON SCENE report that the subcommittee investigation would not substantiallyaffect FEMA’s awarding of contracts and grants, although the agency will be “a little more hard-nosed and thorough” in the future.
Clyde A. Bragdon, Jr., has been named as acting associate . director at the National Emergency Training Center, replacing Villella. The possibility of Bragdon being permanently appointed to this post is still “up in the air,” according to a WASHINGTON . SCENE report.
Bragdon is the administrator of the United States Fire Administration. A 32-year veteran of the fire service, Bragdon was formerly a county forester, fire warden, and chief of the Los Angeles County, CA, Fire Department.