Businesses capitalize

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006


A Mobile, Ala.-based firm is the latest in the long line of groups who took advantage of the incompetence of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to line their own pockets.

The Press-Register newspaper in Mobile recently reported Clearbrook LLC provided 415,000 meals for hurricane victims beginning in late September 2005 at a cost of $6.2 million or $14.85 per lunch.

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That amount is easily more than double what a traditional MRE (meals ready to eat) normally costs and likely far more expensive than the lunch you had today.

Our first reaction is to blame FEMA for the oversight. And, yes, the agency holds ultimate responsibility.

For any number of reasons, FEMA was completely unprepared for hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In many cases, FEMA simply did not have enough supplies ready to be deployed. Or, in the cases where supplies were plentiful, the problem was often a staggering amount of red tape that prevented logical avenues of distribution.

But in many cases, private businesses seemed to take advantage of FEMA&8217;s ineptness as a way of quickly lining their pockets.

In the case of Clearbrook&8217;s lunch specials, $14.85 per meal, we&8217;d say that&8217;s a prime example of overcharging. The Mobile newspaper discovered &8212; through Freedom of Information requests &8212; despite contract requirements that the meals be non-perishable, what was delivered didn&8217;t meet those requirements.

Unfortunately, months later the perishable food isn&8217;t the only thing that smells funny.