IG Report finds ethical lapses in LC Minerals Mgt. Office - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

IG Report finds ethical lapses in LC Minerals Mgt. Office

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Ever since the deadly explosion and fire that sank the Deepwater Horizon and created an oil spill that could scar Louisiana for years, questions have been raised about who is watching the oil companies.  That job in government falls to the Minerals Management Service, part of the Department of Interior.

Last week, the Secretary of Interior said the MMS was under investigation. The Minerals Management Service is supposed to inspect rigs such as the Deepwater Horizon and that's why the agency is now under intense scrutiny.

 And the Inspector General report reveals further evidence of what some call a cozy relationship between the MMS and the oil and gas industry-- and the abuses highlighted in a newly released report allegedly happened right here in the Lake Charles office located at 620 Esplanade..

 The IG report says a culture of accepting gifts from oil and gas companies was prevalent through the MMS in Lake Charles... Gifts reportedly included hunting and fishing trips from the Island Operating Company-- an oil and gas production company working on oil platforms regulated by the department.

And the report says some MMS employees in Lake Charles accepted a trip to the 2005 Peach Bowl game between LSU and Miami paid for by an oil and gas company.

 Interior Secretary Ken Salazar instituted ethics reforms in January 2009 and says he supports the inspector generals work to root out bad apples in the agency. "That responsibility I will say starts with the dept of interior and the minerals management service. We need to clean up that house. It's an effort which we started back some 15, 16 months ago which included dealing with sex and drug investigations that had been underway. People who had been involved in those issues have been prosecuted and have been terminated and other personnel actions have been taken."

Investigators also reviewed the email accounts of employees at the Lake Charles and New Orleans offices between 2005 and 2009. The report says they found numerous instances of pornography and  inappropriate humor on government computers of thirteen employees six of whom have resigned.

The Minerals Management Service is the federal agency in the Department of the Interior that manages the nation's natural resources in the gulf.

The alleged misconduct occurred before 2007--and was seen by DOI officials of evidence that big change is needed in the ethical behavior of MMS employees.  In January 2009 a new Ethics Guide was issued.

Several of the individuals in the IG report have resigned, been terminated or referred for prosecution.  Some others will be put on administrative leave pending the outcome of a personnel review.

To read the investigative report, click here. To read the press release from the Department of the Interior, click here.

Copyright 2010 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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