I got scooped!
John Pennington, the official in charge of federal disaster response in the Northwest, was a four-term Republican state representative who ran a mom-and-pop coffee company in Cowlitz County when then-Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn helped him get his federal post.
Before he was appointed regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Pennington got a degree from a correspondence school that government investigators later described as a “diploma mill.”
I’d been working on a piece on Pennington, but awoke this morning to find the Seattle Times had beat me to the punch. Nobody like’s being scooped, but the Times did a much more thorough reporting job than I ever could have done (they are, after all, real journalists), and it is comforting to know that the MSM is finally looking into these things.
What’s not so comforting is that the man overseeing the federal government’s disaster response in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Idaho — about one-third of the nation’s land mass — had no emergency management experience prior to assuming his $138,000 a year post at the head of FEMA’s Region X office.
Sure, Pennington had been a four-term state representative, and a rising star in the Republican party, before resigning due to health reasons. But his prior disaster experience consisted of successfully pushing legislation to suspend sales taxes on rebuilding damaged buildings after floods struck his southwest Washington district. And as the Times reports, his academic resume is even shakier than that of his boss at FEMA, Michael Brown.
Just before his appointment, Pennington received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from California Coast University in Santa Ana, Calif., which at the time was an unaccredited correspondence school.
The school is now accredited.
In testimony before Congress last year, investigators for the General Accounting Office identified California Coast as a diploma mill. […] GAO special agent Paul DeSaulniers told The Seattle Times this week that his investigation showed that California Coast University sold degrees for a flat fee.
So how exactly did Pennington get this plum appointment to head a regional FEMA office? None other than the state’s most prominent political fixer, former US Rep.
Eleanor Prentice Shaw Jennifer Dunn.
Former GOP Rep. Dunn, who was Bush’s 2000 campaign chairwoman in Washington, recalled that she called Pennington and asked him to fill out an application for the FEMA job. She was responsible for screening and making recommendations on all regional political appointments.
Dunn, who said she was unaware that Pennington’s degree was obtained through correspondence courses, said she was “relieved” when he finally agreed to take the job. Pennington was selected from three finalists recommended by Dunn’s office.
That’s right, the only qualification needed was
Shaw’s Dunn’s recommendation, and only those recommended by Shaw Dunn were considered for the job. And so a man with no emergency management experience, and a college degree from a mail order diploma mill, was deemed the person best qualified to manage emergencies in the Northwest region. As Shaw Dunn put it: “He was a natural.”
Makes you wonder about some of
Shaw’s Dunn’s other, more recent appointments. (Her son Raymond Reagan comes to mind.)
[Cross-posted to Daily Kos]