June 7th, 2010
01:41 PM ET

Ex-oil official: Agency is a 'culture of corruption'

Bobby Maxwell, a former Minerals Management Service auditor who spent 22 years with the Interior Department unit, tells CNN that he witnessed "inspections" on off shore oil rigs that were barely worth the name.

"They would look at some papers, have lunch, shake hands with their friends and say goodbye," Maxwell told CNN's Abbie Boudreau in an interview scheduled to air Wednesday on AC360.

Maxwell told CNN the agency had a "culture of corruption" and the inspections he saw were like a country fair - all play and no real work.

The agency - which oversees U.S. offshore drilling, including the Gulf of Mexico - has come under fire for mismanagement, questionable conduct and cozy relationships with industry officials.

Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, during an appearance before the House Committee on Natural Resources, said he was trying to change the agency's culture and its structure, which some critics say leads to mismanagement.

"My belief is that most of the employees of the MMS are good public servants," Salazar said. He, however, acknowledged some of the past conduct was "scandalous" and "reprehensible."

Senator pushes to cut 'cozy' ties between oil industry, regulators

Maxwell is still litigating a $60 million whistleblower suit he filed against the agency.

soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. Nick2

    If the Government is unable to monitor its own bureacracy – it begs the question of what is it the Government (Congress and Senate and Executive) that the government actually does that is useful? We know it has to get advice from special interests because it is unable to make decisions without these 'experts'. We know it adds 'pork' on to every piece of legislation lovingly prepared for it by the special interests, and we know that it relies on the special interests to read and explain the legislation. We also know that it needs a lot of campaign money that it gets from the special interests – so in summary it seems that it trades pork for votes, and legislation for financial contributions which are used for campaigns.
    Which part of this litany is useful to the voters and taxpayers?

    June 7, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe rockbottom

      This is primarily due to the Republican tactic of appointing and hiring known incompetents to government. They do this as a matter of policy in order to destroy the government from within (read Grover Norquist for the full strategy, inspired by Stallin. Really!!). Republicans have told us over, and over, and over for 40 years that their goal is to destroy the government. Why don't you believe them??!?!?! NEVER VOTE FOR REPUBLICANS IF YOU WANT A GOOD GOVERNMENT.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. joe rockbottom

    The Bush administration took it to the extreme by appointing and hiring totally incompetent people to posts in these agencies. The idea was to make government so incompetent that people would accept the idea of having corporations run things themselves without any government interference. of cours this is what we get for letting republicans run government – republicans who HATE government and have threatened repeatedluy to destroy it whenever they are in office. Why didn't you believe them? NEVER, EVER VOTE FOR REPUBLICANS IF YOU WANT GOVERNMENT TO WORK!!

    June 7, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • frank

      LIBERALS caused this disaster.....by pushing away the oil platforms to deeper waters and making it more difficult to drill...because they did not want to look at them. They do want gas to run their cars of course!
      Bush was a caring competent man...not like Obama a fake and incompetent...of course "he goes to the library" yeah right!
      no leadership from day one...and you have a disaster on day 50!!!!!!

      June 7, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe rockbottom

      Frank wrote: "LIBERALS caused this disaster.....Bush was a caring competent man..."

      Frank, really, what a good joke!!

      Liberals? Really? You mean the ones who campaigned for stringent environmental controls and strict oversight of all corporate actions? Those liberals? The ones who warned disasters like this would happen if corporations were allowed to do whatever they wanted without any oversight? How is that Norway drills in the much rougher north sea without significant mishaps? I can tell you they have a VERY liberal government and don't seem to have any problems!!

      And Bush a caring man? the one who elimiated hundreds of environmental regulations that have led to milions of people being poisoned by unsafe drinking water? That Bush? the same Bush who eliminated all rules for drilling, on land or sea, so that now pollution is spreading faster than a tornado in Ohio? What a great, caring man that Bush is!!

      LIke I said Frank, good joke, satire I assume!!

      June 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. publius enigma

    What do we really get from offshore drilling? Not much. The amount coming out is not enough to affect world pricing, and oil companies dont sell it to us at a discount just because it came from our wells. We pay exactly the same for oil whether it is drilled in the gulf or if it is drilled in arabia. We dont get jack. A few dollars for permission to drill, and a few jobs of which not even all of them go to americans.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BJNJ

    Salazar could have solved this in a month. He needs to resign. If an agency has such obvious corruption the head person must take the hit. In fact, if our celebrity wasn't busy smiling, he should resign too! BJNJ

    June 7, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe rockbottom

      And how, exactly, would he have "solved" it.? BP drilled well and put in technology they knew was defective. They went ahead anyway, against the advice of their own engineers. THey did so due to unbridled greed (They already admitted this in the press). What was Salazar going to do? The regulations were already in place. The Obama administration has not had enough time to reverse all the damage done to the regulatory agencies by Bush (hiring, appointing incompetent people, eliminating critical regulations to let corporations do whatever they want, etc), so it was bound to happen sometime. In fact, it will happen again because there are other castasrophies waiting to happen due to the lingering effects of the Bush administration. It will take DECADES to repair the damage to government cause by the Bush gangsters.

      June 7, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brenda

    I'm sure Obama will blame this on Bush/Cheney also. He always says, "the buck stops here" then he proceeds to blame everyone else, usually BUSH. Joe Rockbottom doesn't understand that these lower level employees are not political appointees they are civil servants who apply for the job.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. TXMike

    I dont care who was elected between Obama or McCain, it was going to be an impossible mess to clean up after Bush/Chaney got done lining their pockets at the expense of the environment and American lives. Why were we the only country not to require stringent safety shut-offs? Most other countries force this before anyone is allowed to drill. Why not us??? So now our ignorance and greed is being paid for ten-fold!

    June 7, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. frank

    when we use the word leadership...what do we expect? not what Obama has done with this issue
    just saying "all hands on deck" is not going to cut it... you have to be proactive...Obama YOU ARE NOT A LEADER!
    you are just a fake telepromter guy...America wake up!
    liberals tried to blame Bush for Katrina..what a joke! Bush did care...but Nagin failed miserably and still got re-elected

    June 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Will

    I was nodding my head in agreement until I read the part at the end about Mr. Maxwell's "$60 million whistleblower suit." If he was so concerned about corruption in the MMS, why didn't he talk to the press long before this ever happened? If he had any legitimate accusations, I guarantee that some reporter, somewhere, would have been interested in his story. As it stands, he comes across as a disgruntled employee trying to make a quick buck off of a national tragedy.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      As a part of your job, you must maintain privacy of all issues. If there is a problem, you must resolve it internally, by the provided mechanisms. The second you step outside and blabber that is legitimate terms for getting canned, and you will definitely never work again. The only reason he can sue and maybe get compensation for the retaliation is because he obeyed all regulations and practices of his job. Under your idea, he would have been properly excused.

      June 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jack Noble

    You didn't read it did you. You Joe Q Public are the problem!

    June 7, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Skeeter

    Let's hope the Nuclear Power regulators aren't in the same boat. Can you say "Nuclear Meltdown"? I say a top to bottom review of contingency plans for any type man made disaster scenario.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Willie12345

    These types of problems have gone on for many years; long before Bush, Clinton and Carter. The federal government is by nature inept and slow. We can look forward to a Health Care system that is run in a like manner.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Willie James

    Of course it is corrupt: Dick Cheney and his crew not only ripped off the American taxpayer with the Gulf War and Halliburton, they left a corrupt legacy in place with the MME. Funny. Cheney is no where to be found nowadays. Where is he? Hiding in the Fox News dressing room? While I wish OBAMA had been more vocal, I think the response has been OK. Like to see outstanding. But when private enterprise disobeys the rule of law, and ethics, and the government has no means of fixing it, here is what you get.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David

    You're all so cute, the ones who are so crafty at modifying President Obama's name to fit any situation. Here's a novel idea: Try showing the PRESIDENT a little more respect.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. KMAN

    I am so tired of hearings and firings and resstructurings etc. Let's start putting some people in jail, or better yet, do like the Chinese and execute one or two of these inept and/or corrupt bureaucrats. I bet that would improve government service for the people efectively and immediately.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DKC2114

    I work for the DoD as a contract administrator, and this type of behavior is frowned upon. It is illegal for a contracting officer or contract administrator to accept gifts above $20, and illegal to accept more than $50 in gifts per year from a contractor. Anyone caught doing so, depending on the severity of the offense, is asked at a minimum to return the gifts, and some have been prosecuted. It would make sense for a regulatory body such as the MMS to have similar rules governing their conduct with the people they oversee.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      We can only hope they are more stringent when it comes to taking bribes if you are employed in defense. (Kneels and prays, right now real quick). At least we can have that little bit of peace in these hard times. Obviously, this corporate pandering to regulators should be punished, and it was in a report in 2008?

      June 7, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
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