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Parish chief demands FEMA apology

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St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis called the FEMA accusations "absurd."

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Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
New Orleans (Louisiana)

(CNN) -- The president of St. Tammany Parish Monday demanded an apology from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its claim that he had recommended it hire his construction company to develop a property to house people displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

"I am waiting for a full and immediate apology from FEMA for untrue remarks," Kevin Davis said in a written statement. "The FEMA spokesperson is a liar."

FEMA had told CNN Sunday that the agency expected to have more than 1,000 housing units up and running in the area shortly, but that Davis himself had contributed to delays because he recommended to the agency that his construction company be hired to develop a property to which he has personal ties. (Full story)

Davis said in his statement that he does not own a construction company, and that he owns no land other than the site of his flooded home.

FEMA, in an e-mail, also said Sunday that Davis had asked that the agency pay $7,000 per acre per month for the property -- more than four times its value.

Since then, the e-mail said, Davis dropped his lease rate "to a reasonable monthly amount," and federal officials had nearly finalized a deal to put housing on the site, which can accommodate as many as 1,000 units.

"I do not own a construction company. I did not attempt to lease land to FEMA," Davis said Monday. "The only land I own is the lot my flooded home sits on. This is absurd.

"I want to find housing for the people of St. Tammany Parish. I do not want to spend my time refuting idiotic statements from FEMA spokespersons," he said. "I expect an immediate, full and public apology, and then I want to get back to work. People here need housing, not words."

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

FEMA's statements about Davis came after the parish president, in an interview Sunday with CNN's "Late Edition," accused the agency of continuing to mismanage the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Davis described as "wonderful" the FEMA employees assigned to his parish along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

"It's the bureaucratic part that, once they make the request for me on my behalf, for the past five weeks, I don't get a response," Davis said.

Davis cited as an example his request for mobile units to house parish residents and emergency workers living in shelters and tents.

"I've met with so many FEMA officials outside of my liaison officer; it's just I can't get a response," he complained.

Even basics such as water, fuel and food were obtained only after "hollering and screaming," not by going through channels, Davis said.

Problems with the federal government's initial response to Katrina helped lead to last month's resignation of FEMA's director, Michael Brown.

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