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. joe rockbottom

    Brenda wrote: "Joe Rockbottom doesn't understand that these lower level employees are not political appointees they are civil servants who apply for the job."

    Brenda doesn't understand that many, many of the lower-level employees were ALSO hired by the Bush administration specifically to put incompetent, corporate -sympathetic people into the very fabric of the civil service sector. The Republican plan has always been to destroy the government from within by placing their "own" people in as many positions as possible. Appointed positions are only a very, very small fraction of the plan. Again, read books and articles by Grover Norquist, the primary republican strategist on how he modeled this plan after the way Stalin managed to take over the Soviet government from within. Grover Norquist is a great admirer of Stalin.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bwood

    All American, do you realize you used "BUSH" and "STUPID" in the same sentence?

    Let's see, ..... The MMS was established in 1982, OK, then we can blame REAGAN for it!!

    June 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tumbleweed

    Thanks to BP international corporation in US waters for taking our beaches and wildlife. Where's the justice to the common man. Criminal charges should be brought. Why anyone would buy gas from the BP is beyond my comprehension. The MMS should be dismantled.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      Yeah, why can't we just ban their products from America. That's a quick start.

      June 7, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bodhissatva

    TO: Whatthefruck, James and LOLA
    I completely agree with you. As an example of Obama's incompetence, I went to the Social Security Administration the other day to get a new SS card. The clerk gave me a hard time and I blame Obama. I mean he hired EVERY government servant, didn't he? You guys have absolutely no idea how government is run, do you? To hold Obama accountable is ridiculous. These people at the MMS were appointed during the "Shrub" years (I checked) and were put in place to specifically follow the prevailing agenda at the time (pro-oil company). To expect Obama or ANY president to replace EVERY previous president's appointee is the height of ignorance regarding the political system. Most appointees do a pretty good job and are competent in their positions (yes, even some of Shrub's are/were good) and quite a few stay in their positions from one President's term to another. If Obama would have removed every one of Bush's appointees y'all would (probably) be complaining about how Obama is trying a power grab and is not trying to be bi-partisan.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      "the height of ignorance regarding the political system"...yeah what he said

      June 7, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DrJulie

    Great – it's time for a bit on the MMS.

    Also, if all companies are not going to be involved in the criminal investigation, so far we know BP and Transocean will be but have not heard about Halliburton. Could you explain to us why any party would be excluded?

    June 7, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Larry

    Wow. A government agency that is inefficient, lazy and corrupt? Say it ain't so!

    June 7, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joel

    I could only imagine what's going to happen to the Alaska Pipeline. You know there's corruption, it's only a matter of time before that has an accident.

    "democracy" isn't working. Every business transaction that could affect the world in a negative way is only done for the self interest of others; hence we have major disasters which government has to clean up. Meanwhile the MMS inspectors have walked away squeaky clean with a fat bank account and free trips to islands.

    I think we need capital punishment. These rich CEOs get to go to golf jail while innocent people have to pay with their lives.
    This isn't what our forefathers envisioned.

    This country is broken. We need a revolution and let the people take America back.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    I am tired of seeing all of the posts here bashing former presidents and such. What accountability do we have in this adminstration if we bash others before it. Seems that the current administration, which has been in office for almost a year-and-half, seems to have done nothing in that timeframe. In that timeframe which is a long time, nothing was done to change the bahaviors or even monitor the agency that handles this problem. This is only the tip of the iceberg though. Our government is so corrupt that it can't even do the right things. I do not have faith in our government when it comes to disasters except the ones that deal with politics.

    Until our government is fixed, it will not support the people the way it needs to, and will continue to erode the confidence of many.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. edca

    I have been trying for days now to find out when the Agency granted that particular off shore deep water drilling lease to BP? DOES ANYONE KNOW THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION? i F SO, LET ME KNOW. All i do know is that for decades now the Minerals Agnecy has collected so far billions of dollars in royalty fees from BIG OIL. T ell me this isn't wrong, a conflict of interest and unethical! I am so disgusted with the federal govt acting in cahoots with big business–Let BP pay for decades and restructure the govt beaucracies so this will never happen again!

    June 7, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Matt

    "Senator pushes to cut 'cozy' ties between oil industry, regulators"
    What a JOKE!! What about the COZY ties between big business and CONGRESS!! I guess that is OK

    June 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Andacar

    I used to work for a large defense lab. I saw firsthand how adamantly resistant to change the people there were, how entrenched the bureucrary was. I saw them trying to figure out how to dodge efficiency and accountability initiatives. It was all so pathetic. I'm hon estly not sure what any president past or present could do to root out the endemic incompetence, buddy networks and buck pushing.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      Yes, a tough nut to crack. Incompetent, lazy and dangerous people that will keep that job for their security, and no matter how bad they perform they just seem to be a permanent fixture. That is how I see Suttles. Poor pathetic imbecile. I still think that an effective system of communication from the bottom to regulators when things have run off course is best. No retaliation. Clear regualtions, which are more than rubber stamp inspections of a few sheets of paper. Inspectors need to watch processes in action as if they were training someone to do heart surgery. Not like they just smoked a joint.

      June 7, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    And what are the odds that this is the only corrupt agency in Washington? Exactly zero.

    Any organisation from which it's hard to fire people and that the employees of which affect the financial well-being of immensely wealthy companies is going to be corrupt from one end to the other. That's been human nature forever.

    And what is government other than a lot of such organisations?

    The surprise isn' that the Minerals Management Service is corrupt, the surprise would be if most government "services" aren't corrupt.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • nanobot

      But now we have the internet. And now we can give information anonymously. Things could change. This BP event could be the catalyst.

      June 7, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Michael in Phoenix

    culture of corruption defines every part of the government.

    June 7, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steve Newman

    Why shouldn't we blame Bush? He put an energy guy in charge of the MMS. What a joke that was! Cheney's "Energy Commission" was written by the energy lobby. Besides the Christmas bomber proved that it takes a long time to change the government. Almost none of the recommendations that the 9/11 commission called for were implemented. OH, and Bush/Cheney had 7 years to do that, so why do you wingnuts expect Obama to correct all of our government's failings in 1.5 years?

    June 7, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bubblin_crude

    I heard from my friend who knows a guy that Obama was in a 90's rap video gambling dominos and doing pizza with GWB rubbing olive oil all over

    June 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
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