FEMA site manager Josh Davis and I were soaked with sweat from the east Texas heat. Too bad the FEMA trailer we were standing in didn't have an air conditioner. The people who used to live there stole it. They also took all the lights, every appliance, all the locks and door knobs. They even took the toilet.
Turns out, almost one out of every ten FEMA trailers loaned rent-free to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita are returned so badly trashed they can't be used again, according to FEMA. The government then tries to get what it can at auction. Trailers (what's left of them) that cost taxpayers upwards of $20,000 sometimes sell for just pennies on the dollar.
And what happens to the former trailer occupants who trashed them? So far, not much. FEMA has the authority to send a letter demanding payment for damages, that is, if the offending residents can be found. FEMA doesn't have the authority to prosecute and officials say trying to punish someone for ruining a trailer may cost more than it's worth.
-- By David Mattingly, CNN Correspondent