The Federal Emergency Management Agency last year removed a branch chief whose repeated complaints of mismanagement led to the internal and congressional investigations enveloping the agency.
Donna Darlington, who supervised some of the agency's largest contracts as chief of the telecommunications division, was transferred to a lesser job after questioning whether FEMA has awarded wasteful contracts and made too many noncompetitive awards.
Darlington, who has filed a grievance challenging her transfer to overseeing minor contracts, said yesterday that top agency officials "have no regard for the regulations or what's proper. They want what they want when they want it, and they don't want it questioned by a GS-14."
FEMA executive administrator Gerald Martin said he transferred Darlington because of her "abrasiveness" in dealing with colleagues and a major contractor, American Telephone & Telegraph Co., which complained about her conduct.
Martin said that Darlington had thrown "temper tantrums" and used racial slurs and that her transfer had "nothing to do with" her allegations of mismanagement.
An internal report by FEMA Inspector General Robert Goffus, obtained yesterday, said of Darlington's allegations: "There is evidence of some violations of procurement regulations and mismanagement of the AT&T . . . contract . . . . There is evidence to support most of Darlington's other allegations."
The report, confirming Darlington's charge of wasteful spending, found that FEMA officials had ordered 19 color television sets and a hide-a-bed, love seat, sofa and numerous leather chairs at the end of fiscal 1983.
FEMA is a six-year-old agency with a $560 million budget and 2,600 employes. On Wednesday, Rep. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) released internal documents showing, among other things, that a contractor paid for FEMA Director Louis O. Giuffrida and his wife to attend a fund-raiser at the National Republican Club.
Darlington took her allegations to Gore and Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), who said yesterday that Darlington has received "outstanding" performance ratings and that "no one's ever disputed her allegations. They just go after her personally."
Darlington said she sought the first audit in the 20-year history of a large AT&T contract to provide emergency communications equipment. She said she "refused to rubber-stamp" AT&T requests for increased funding and blocked such further noncompetitive awards to the company as a $1 million contract for a television surveillance system.
The FEMA internal report confirmed most of Darlington's account, including her complaint that some contracts are excessively vague. The report also found that "the percentage of sole source contracts that have been awarded by FEMA is significant."
AT&T spokesman Pik Wagner said his company was caught in "a personality clash" at FEMA and has provided all information requested by the agency. "The basic problem is within FEMA," he said.
Darlington said she also complained that FEMA officials improperly eliminated Rockwell International Corp. from bidding for a large communications-equipment contract that went to the Harris Corp. Rockwell has challenged the award in court.
Last summer, Darlington questioned whether it was a conflict of interest for FEMA to make a $100,000 noncompetitive grant to a nonprofit Washington institute at which Giuffrida is an unpaid adviser.
Darlington said that many of the agency's contracts are "garbage" and that "we don't know what we're buying." She said she has been made "a scapegoat" because of her criticism.
A separate report by Bert W. Smith & Co. found that FEMA's emergency training center in western Maryland let 12 of 13 contracts last year without bidding and that a "large number were awarded to a selected few organizations." The report also cited "inadequate financial monitoring" of FEMA grants.
Giuffrida painted a far brighter picture in an eight-page listing of accomplishments sent to White House counselor Edwin Meese III last May.
He said that FEMA was "virtually out of control" when he took over in 1981 but that "this administration has every reason to be proud of the improvements that we have made in . . . address ing the emergency and national security needs of the United States."
FEMA spokesman James L. Holton acknowledged that the agency's contract procedures need improvement but said it makes far fewer noncompetitive awards than the average federal agency. He said FEMA has spent $400,000 on the internal probe and that any allegations of criminal conduct will be referred to the Justice Department.