When news of the Gulf oil spill first broke, we wondered if previously reported problems at the Minerals Management Service, the agency that regulates offshore drilling, extended to the Gulf.
The Department of the Interior's Office of the Inspector General released a report this morning indicating as much. At one Gulf Coast office of MMS, agency officials attended sporting events on the dime of oil companies, stored porn on company computers, used cocaine and crystal meth, and falsified inspection reports. (The above links go directly to the relevant pages in the report, thanks to our ever-handy document viewer.)
The ethical violations described in the IG report occurred between 2000 and 2008, around the same time as another sex, drugs and royalty scandal at the agency.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement that he found the behavior "reprehensible" and the report "deeply disturbing." Salazar took over as head of the Interior Department--of which MMS is a part--in January 2009. He added that some of the employees cited have since "resigned, been terminated or referred for prosecution."
Read choice excerpts from the report ...
On receiving gifts:
An MMS clerical employee informed investigators that one inspector at the MMS Lake Charles Office had told her "everyone has gotten some sort of gift before at some point" from an oil and gas company representative.
On special treatment for "good friends" in the oil industry, from a 2006 e-mail exchange between an MMS inspector and an employee of ConocoPhillips:
The e-mail chain began with the inspector sending the Conoco Phillips employee an e-mail with the subject line, "Civil Penalty Case recaps - 1st quarter 2006." He stated, "These are the fines that we assessed to different companies for breaking the rules." The Conoco Phillips employee responded, "[E]ver get bribed for some of that?" He replied, "They try all the time." The Conoco Phillips employee responded back, "[E]ver take em?" the inspector said, "I accept ‘gifts' from certain people. But we have VERY strict ethic standards as you could imagine." The Conoco Phillips employee replied, "[C]ertain people, meaning women?" the inspector said, "No. meaning good friends that I wouldn't write up anyway."
During his interview, the MMS inspector initially denied using crystal methamphetamine, but he later admitted to it. He claimed that the last time he used crystal methamphetamine was the weekend of the 2009 Super Bowl, in February. He explained that he had never possessed or used crystal methamphetamine while at work but admitted that he might have been under the influence of the drug at work after using it the day before.
We found numerous instances of pornography and other inappropriate material on the e-mail accounts of 13 employees, six of whom have resigned. We specifically discovered 314 instances where the seven remaining employees received or forwarded pornographic images and links to Internet websites containing pornographic videos to other federal employees and individuals outside of the office using their government e-mail accounts.
On falsified inspection reports:
Another confidential source told investigators that some MMS inspectors had allowed oil and gas production company personnel located on the platform to fill out inspection forms. The forms would then be completed or signed by the inspector and turned in for review. According to the source, operating company personnel completed the inspection forms using pencils, and MMS inspectors would write on top of the pencil in ink and turn in the completed form.
Salazar said he has asked for the inquiry to be expanded to see if unethical behaviors continued after he put new ethics rules into effect. Read the report for yourself.