Corrupt MMS inspectors exposed by email

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An email trail shows that federal oil industry inspectors in Louisiana accepted gifts from companies they were meant to be regulating. They also traded pornographic images and links, according to a Interior Department inspector general investigation into the Minerals Management Service's Louisiana offices.

The DOI inspector general posted the report online on May 25 (.pdf).

MMS inspector emails show that in 2005, 2006 and 2007, MMS inspectors in the Lake Charles district routinely accepted oil industry gifts, including company-paid hunting and fishing trips, entry into skeet shooting contests and invitations to crawfish boils.

Two inspectors accepted a private plane trips and tickets to the 2005 Peach Bowl in Atlanta, from an executive of Production Management Incorporated, an offshore production company that formerly operated in the Gulf of Mexico.

One inspector emailed other MMS employees a few days after the Peach Bowl pictures from his trip, including a photo of the private airplane used to take him to Atlanta.

Taking gifts "appears to have been a generally accepted practice," the report says.

That same inspector later had an email exchange on April 6, 2006 with a Conoco Phillips employee about bribery.

"I accept 'gifts' from certain people. But we have VERY strict ethic standards as you could imagine," the inspector wrote, according to the report. The email conversation continued with the Conoco Phillips employee replying "certain people, meaning women?" to which the inspector said, "No. meaning good friends that I wouldn't write up anyway."

A review of email accounts of employees at Lake Charles and New Orleans MMS offices also uncovered "numerous instances of pornography," the report states.

Emails also show that a then-MMS inspector corresponded with Island Operating Company, a Lafayette, La.-based oil and gas production company, about a job offer.

The inspector wrote on June 12, 2008 that he was, "excited about coming back to work with IOC. Do you think [an IOC official] would go with $65,000 a year? And all the trimmings you told me about," the report states. The company official replied on June 17, 2008, "Yes I think [he] will. When you hire on you will talk to him."

Records show that the inspector reviewed four IOC oil-drilling platforms between the June 12 and August 8, 2008, when he resigned from government service to work for IOC.

For more:
- Read the DOI OIG report (.pdf)

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