The director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency management has resigned, leaving his post less than a week after a newspaper reported that the agency gave itself failing grades for its preparedness for a large-scale disaster.
Gov. Mike Huckabee named John Brackin in November as the agency’s interim director and permanently named him to the position in March. But Brackin resigned recently, apologizing to Huckabee for not keeping him better informed.
“In light of the events of the past couple of days, I feel that I no longer have your support or your confidence in my management of this agency,” Brackin said in a letter to Huckabee.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published a story that said the agency submitted a self-evaluation of its preparedness to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that pointed to numerous areas in which the state is unready.
A deputy director said he hoped the critical analysis would help generate more federal funding for the state. But the assessment was very specific in listing ways Arkansas would not be able to cope with an earthquake or pandemic.
Huckabee was quoted in the story as saying he would address the problems, adding the department had “serious credibility problems with me.”
The governor, traveling in Asia, said through spokeswoman Alice Stewart that he had accepted Brackin’s resignation.
“John left on his own, and his resignation has been received and accepted,” Stewart told The Associated Press.
Brackin did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Deputy Director David Maxwell will run the department until Huckabee names another director.
Brackin was named last November to lead the agency on an interim basis after Wayne Ruthven resigned. Brackin was elevated to permanent status in March, and Huckabee asked Brackin to focus on plans for responding to a large-scale disaster.
“Although we have accomplished a great deal in the way of preparedness, there is still an enormous amount of work still to be done,” Brackin wrote in his resignation letter Huckabee. “If I have failed to adequately communicate this to you, then I apologize for not keeping you more informed.”
The state has shown it can respond to limited disasters, such as tornadoes. But the department is working to establish a plan for responding to a large-scale disaster, such as a major earthquake along the New Madrid Fault.
The New Madrid Fault had four catastrophic earthquakes between 1811 and 1812, with magnitude estimates greater than 7.0. Hundreds of aftershocks followed over several years.
Arkansas would be among the seven states to suffer damage in the event of a major quake along the fault, potentially affecting 24 counties and 600,000 state residents.
Brackin told The Associated Press in March that the fault was a “time bomb” waiting to occur.
“We’ve got a state plan, but you’ve got to look at it realistically,” Brackin said. “There are over 600,000 Arkansans who live in the seismic zone. What are you going to do with 600,000 people? If you have a major earthquake, it’s going to affect surrounding areas.”
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, www.ardemgaz.com.
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