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Louis Giuffrida resigned Wednesday as director of the federal...

By HELEN THOMAS, UPI White House Reporter

WASHINGTON -- Louis Giuffrida resigned Wednesday as director of the federal civil preparedness agency, subject of a yearlong congressional investigation of alleged fraud, abuse and waste, an agency spokesman said.

Giuffrida, a longtime associate of Attorney General Edwin Meese, submitted his resignation as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, effective Sept. 1, said FEMA spokesman Robert Mahaffey. The White House accepted the resignation.

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A congressional subcommittee last year uncovered allegations of fraud and misconduct during Giuffrida's tenure as director of FEMA.

'Mr. Giuffrida's tenure as head of this important agency has been riddled with controversy, from allegations of misuse of government personnel and property to revelationsof waste, fraud and abuse,' said Sen. Albert Gore, D-Tenn., who headed the congressional panel that investigated the agency while he was a member of the House.

'His resignation marks the end of a disastrous era for FEMA and brings hope for more competent stewardship,' the senator said.

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Gore said his investigation disclosed that Giuffrida and his executive deputy director, Fred Villella, had approved the illegal construction of a residence on government property for their private use at a cost of more than $170,000 in public funds.

Villella resigned two days after Gore's subcommittee opened its hearing.

The subcommittee investigation later revealed instances where Giuffrida would attend expensive political functions and then bill the government for expenses, Gore said.

A Justice Department investigation is pending, Gore said.

Mahaffey said Giuffrida, who has been with the agency since 1981, 'feels he has accomplished his goals.'

He said the administrator is 'pursuing several options in the private sector' but has not made a decision on a new position.

Asked if he was forced out of his job, Mahaffey said, 'No.'

Under Giuffrida, the agency had been the subject of investigations into allegations of fraud, waste, mismanagement and favoritism in its dealings with Triton Corp. and IMR Corp., two Washington-area firms holding $7 million in contracts with the agency.

Giuffrida and Villella acknowledged in testimony to a House Science and Technology subcommittee on oversight and investigations in March that they took $500 worth of tickets each to a political event but never knew who paid for them.

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Triton said it paid for tickets for both men and their wives to attend a fund-raiser for Vice President George Bush at the Capitol Hill Club last Feb. 23. The company also paid $1,200 for Giuffrida and Villella for a March 22 dinner hosted for President Reagan.

The bills later were submitted to the government for reimbursement.

Albert Ferri, counsel for Triton, said he had purchased the tickets to both events, but never mentioned it to Giuffrida or Villella, despite the fact the three men shared a table at the dinner.

Both Giuffrida and Villella -- who resigned from the agency after the subcommittee alleged last Aug. 1 that he was involved in financial wrongdoing at the FEMA training center at Emmitsburg, Md. -- testified they were notified by their secretaries the tickets were available and neither man asked who paid for them.

A federal grand jury also opened an investigtion into claims that Triton and IMR, both minority-owned consultants to FEMA, improperly billed the government for entertainment and other items.

Late last year, Gore said it appeared Giuffrida had taken gratuities from a contractor and that contractors who held millions of dollars worth of noncompetitive business with the agency were receiving preferential treatment.

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FEMA also has been criticized for adopting an inadequate national civil defense plan and for squandering its modest budget to the point where cutbacks were required. The agency quietly scrapped one civil defense plan, to evacuate whole cities to rural areas in the event of a nuclear attack.

In another instance, the agency drew widespread publicity for paying for a study that concluded factory workers could best try to save themselves in a nuclear attack by jumping into a large pool of water.

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