Thanks to a years-old administrative snafu, FEMA’s first and only director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, Marcie Roth, has been asked to resign. “I had no knowledge of this error at any point and no one ever brought it to my attention, giving me an opportunity to get their mistake fixed,” wrote Roth in a widely-shared email sent on Dec. 30.
It seems when FEMA “converted” Roth’s job from a political appointee to a civil service position for people with disabilities seven years ago, it had not complied with an Office of Personnel Management memo dated Nov. 5, 2009. Roth has a complex autoimmune inflammatory disease, which made her eligible for the federal government’s “Schedule A” noncompetitive hiring process for people with disabilities.
Losing Roth from that position could have negative impact on disaster relief efforts for people with disabilities, says Paul Timmons, head of the disability disaster relief organization, Portlight Inclusive Strategies. “Much of the work that Marcie did at FEMA over the last seven years to establish credibility for the agency has been undone,” he says, about Roth being instructed to resign. “At the end of the day, Portlight and other stakeholders in disaster relief are going to do everything we can to ensure people with disabilities are well-served, but without somebody in FEMA with some roots in the community it’s going to be hard.”
UPDATE: FEMA released this statement after the initial publication of this story:
In 2010, FEMA established the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination to work towards achieving whole community emergency management, inclusive of individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. FEMA remains committed to supporting individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs in our preparedness efforts and during disasters. FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination is currently led by Acting Director Christopher Lagan.
Lagan is a relatively new employee, hired four months ago, and has little experience with people who have disabilities.