Chris Greenberg/AP
Earl E. Devaney, Inspector General of
the Interior Department

Investigative Reports Reveal Ethical Problems in Interior Department

September 11, 2008 01:08 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Reports of ethical scandals, financial misdeeds and sexual impropriety among employees of the Department of the Interior have reached Congress.

Trouble in the Interior Department

Congress has received three reports of troubles among a handful of past and current employees of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). They worked for the Minerals Management Service (MMS), a branch of the DOI that obtains about $10 billion in oil and gas royalties from energy companies drilling on federally owned lands. Next to collecting taxes, the MMS is one of the largest sources of revenue for the country.

An investigation by Earl E. Devaney, inspector general for the DOI, found that eight individuals in the royalty program received inappropriate gifts like golf and ski outings from energy companies, and used drugs and had sexual relationships with members of the energy industry.

DOI officials said they didn’t see anything wrong with accepting gifts because “they needed to be part of the marketing culture in order to market the program’s oil and gas,” according to The New York Times.

However, Devaney said the investigations uncovered a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” by a small group of individuals “wholly lacking in acceptance of or adherence to government ethical standards.”

A guilty plea has already stemmed from the inspector general’s investigation, according to The Dallas Morning News. In July, Jimmy W. Mayberry pleaded guilty to using his position with the MMS to obtain a federal contract for consulting work after he retired. Mayberry could be fined up to $250,000 and spend up to five years in prison.

Meanwhile, Congress is getting ready to debate whether it should expand offshore drilling. Given these new reports, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said Congress should not lift the drilling ban.

Thoughts on the Reports

After receiving the reports from the inspector general, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said in a press release, “I am outraged by the immoral behavior, illegal activities, and appalling misconduct of several former and current long-serving career employees in the Minerals Management Service’s Royalty in Kind program. These individuals have eroded the trust the American citizens deserve to have in their public servants.”

NBC News reported that Inspector General Devaney “has been incredibly aggressive” in his job. Devaney once told Congress, “Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior.” NBC responded, “Now we know that crimes are not off the table, either.”

The Oil Royalties Scandal

The latest reports aren’t the first to place the Interior Department under the microscope. In 2006, an eight-month investigation concluded that the agency had failed to ensure that energy companies paid royalties owed on billions of dollars of oil and natural gas pumped from coastal waters and federal lands. At the time, officials admitted that the problem could cost the government up to $10 billion over a five-year period.
In this case, the inspector general determined that Interior Department officials weren’t checking actual records to see if companies had paid their royalties; they more often relied on statements from the companies. According to the International Herald Tribune, the Interior Department reported that it reviewed approximately 72 percent of revenues coming from federal energy leases, when it actually studied about 9 percent of properties and 20 percent of all companies.

Related Topic: Offshore drilling

Reference: The Interior Department and the investigative reports


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines