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. cuban casino

    I'm shocked, shocked I I tell you! DRILL BABY DRI....................er never mind.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Debbie

    All American. I agree with you that it is time to stop blaming Bush for some things - other decisions he made will have consequences for years to come. But, I think the people who sound stupid are the ones who can't just say Obama, but have to include kindergarten name calling to go along with it (O-blah-ma/Nobama, etc.). It's embarrassing as an American. We just look so stupid as a country when we do stuff like that. I do think Obama should take responsibility for the corruption in the MMS, and that people should be tried and imprisoned if necessary. Maybe prison time will help stop the corruption.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    22 years, that covers Clinton as well as Bush.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. POD

    Bush was a brain dead moron who did whatever Cheney told him to do......end of story

    June 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • B Schmitt

      FYI: Bush has been out of office since 2008. It's now 2010, and it's Obama that's in charge, ooops I mean think he's in charge.

      June 7, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • GTC

      Great post. Thanks for the insight. Bush = not our best President and even towards the bottom. It is all clear now. He put us in wars and had ties to the oil industry. Now that I think about it, the Denver Broncos suck because Cutler was a lousy quaterback last year. Let's keep blaming the past for our current issues. I think this is a fantastic idea. In fact, I think President Obama should pass as much spending as possible to fix the issues of President Bush. He should spend 10 Trillion dollars and we can easily blame Bush because it is his fault that we need to spend this money. It is his fault that the rig exploded. It is his fault that Toyotas are racing out of control. It is his fault that I haven't saved as much as I should have. Darn that President Bush. I can't wait to find someone who can fix all these issues that are his fault (Oh, and Reagan too).

      June 7, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Chuck

    I wonder if this is the same agency that "inspected" the pipeline that just blew up in Texas?

    June 7, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. J DOG7.62mm

    The white man strikes again

    June 7, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Raul

    they should all be fired !!! remove them all new blood and accountablility .. if your not instpecting fire them.. our tax dollars wasted for what!!!!!

    June 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. wordclock

    They are all corrupt. The government, the oil companies that fund our politicians, the CEO's and all. They only hire corrupt people to work for them. If you're not corrupt you will not get a government job

    June 7, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. David M.

    Oh how shocking!!! And here I was thinking that all govt agencies were above board and doing their jobs. I'm just stunned. NOT. Nor is anyone else, I'm sure. Pick an agency and you can say the same thing.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jon

    I am not voting any more. People are just no good. Start from that viewpoint and work from there.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    So you think Obama could undo all the damage of the Bush administration in a year? You must really think Obama is puff the magic dragon. That and you really didn't say dragon. I will be happy if they can arrest the MMS folks that took bribes the rest is a culture change that has damage stacking up since Reagan. Deregulation caused these problems and less regulation is not the answer.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Oil_4_Sell_Cheap

    Anybody have Bush's phone number? Since he's so corrupt we could use his expertise to actually get something done down here.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sally

    The Bush Administration streamlined the agency making it easier to get leases in order to increase our oil output. Oversight was a joke! These deep-water leases appeared to be safe but really weren't and the regulators were in bed with the oil industry. Everything seemed just hunky dory until the blowout. Now it's time to put the breaks on the oil industry...hold them to safety standards. And just wait and see, the Republicans are going to scream and holler about government interference when regulations are proposed!! BP gave far more to the McCain campaign than to the Obama campaign. That should tell you something. The GOP is in collusion with the oil industry, particularly Bush and Cheney!

    June 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. hauntedfox

    If we are playing the blame game, then all American citizens who have not taken an active interest in environmental concerns for the past 40 years are to blame. We created a culture where scientists are despised as doomsayers getting in the way of progress, and environmentalist minded people are tree-hugging freaks. Where are the public forums giving community residents the right to ask intelligent questions to assess risk, and let them vote on what projects are brought into thier vicinity? Where is the thoughtful discourse on the consequences of deregulation? Where is the intelligent and unbiased coverage of environmental risk in our media?

    It is far easier to get people to take a stand against soemthing than to make any move to support something. The biggest driver for lax regulations and oversight was the paucity of incidents resulting from lax oversight. Quite honestly, that's what most regulation in practice rests upon- an assessment of the implications of an incident vs. the likelihood it will happen. In a down economy, money gets invested in things the public cares about. the public made a strong position they did not care about the dangers of offshore drilling as much as they cared about the "dangers" of terrorism. We should be terrified about tings liek the viability of our food supply in the face of ecosystem collapse, but we are not. It doesn;t make good headlines or sound bites. We are all responsible for this mess, and its cleanup.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. leadreviewer

    WE NEED TO GET A PRIVATE OR GOVERNMENT SUBMERSIBLE DOWN TO WHERE THE LEAK IS ASAP AND GET THIS PLUGGED UP OURSELVES.... THEN HOLD BP RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CLEAN UP OF NOT ONLY THE COAST BUT ALSO THE REMOVAL OF WHATS IN THE OCEAN THE SO CALLED PLUMES WHICH ARE DEATH CLOUDS... THIS WILL ONLY CONTINUE TO SPREAD.. IT WONT CLEAR UP ON ITS OWN.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
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