Michael D. Brown was days away from announcing plans to resign as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency when Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29, according to e-mails released by separate House and Senate investigations into the government's flawed response to the disaster.
Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Senate investigation, questioned whether Brown's status played a role in the response.
"The fact that it appears that Michael Brown was planning to resign may explain in part his curious detachment during the Katrina catastrophe," Collins said.
The e-mails also suggest that the administration knew Brown was on the verge of departing when he was recalled as head of the sluggish rescue and relief efforts for the New Orleans area.
Brown resigned on Sept. 12, but the Department of Homeland Security then contracted with him at his full $148,000-a-year salary to serve as a consultant on a review of the response to Hurricane Katrina. The consulting arrangement, initially set to end Oct. 10, has been extended by four weeks, department spokesman Russ Knocke said.
Collins was "surprised to learn" that Brown's consulting deal has been extended, she said, because Michael P. Jackson, deputy secretary of homeland security, told her it would last 30 days.
Knocke said Brown "is transitioning out of a job he held for three years, transferring relevant documents and data and his experiences at the agency."
Brown had privately shared his intentions with acquaintances, and FEMA announced in the aftermath of Brown's resignation that the director of the agency's recovery division, Daniel A. Craig, had also planned to leave a month later.
In an Aug. 31 e-mail to FEMA aide James Tillie, Brown wrote, "I should have done my announcement a week early." That evening, Craig wrote to Brown: "We need to get this done right or neither of us are leaving on great terms . . . and we were days away."