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MMS District Manager to IG: "Obviously, We're All Oil Industry"

May 25, 2010 

 

This morning the Interior Department inspector general released a report on the investigation into the Lake Charles District office of the Minerals Management Service (MMS). Ian Urbina's New York Times story covers the essentials about how regulators did crystal meth, accepted gifts and trips from industry, and allowed industry to draft their own inspection reports in pencil.

Here at POGO, the report is referred to as "Interior Sex and Drugs 2.0," though to be fair, only the Royalty-In-Kind staff in Lakewood, Colorado, were literally in bed with industry. The IG only found "inappropriate humor and pornography" at Lake Charles.

But there are a few other points worth highlighting in the report (beyond the quote in this post's title):  

  • Accountability works: The IG said that they "found a culture where the acceptance of gifts from oil and gas companies were widespread throughout that office." (For those familiar with the previous report, this is very different from then-IG Earl Devaney saying he believed "the integrity of 99.9 percent" of the people who work for Interior.) "[B]ut [this culture] appeared to have declined after the investigation and termination of Don Howard in January 2007 for his acceptance of a gift from one of these companies."
  • Not everyone's been held accountable: The Attorney General for the Office of the Western District of Louisiana declined to prosecute an MMS inspector who conducted four inspections while negotiating a job (that he later accepted) for the company he was overseeing.
  • It may start in the sandbox: "[T]he individuals involved in the fraternizing and gift exchange—both government and industry—have often known one another since childhood." It's something worth considering as many ethics policies have exemptions for prior relationships.
  • Whistleblowers are important: The IG initiated its investigation after receiving an anonymous letter alleging that "a number" of MMS employees had accepted gifts from oil and gas production companies.

 


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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