Accusations Of Sex, Drugs, Graft At Interior Dept.
The Interior Department's inspector general has described a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" at a government office that manages income from oil drilling in the United States.
The reports focus on an office in Denver that is part of the Minerals Management Service, which handles payments from oil and gas companies for their drilling. It's one of the federal government's biggest sources of income, apart from taxes.
According to the reports, office employees accepted tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, and they "used cocaine and marijuana and had sexual relations with oil and gas company representatives."
"We now have proof that they are both literally and figuratively in bed with big oil," says Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida.
Nelson has fought against new offshore oil drilling — an issue Congress is about to start debating.
These reports give Nelson ammunition.
"Big oil has used sex and drugs and illegal gifts with U.S. government watchdogs that are charged with keeping a watchful eye on the oil industry's offshore leasing program in the Gulf of Mexico," Nelson says.
But there were internal problems, too, that had nothing to do with the oil companies. The inspector general describes the government office as having "a culture of ethical failure."
"As public employees, we hold ourselves to a higher standard, especially in the ethical realm, and this type of behavior is not something that we condone," says David Smith, a spokesman for the Minerals Management Service.
He says his office was pleased to get the reports.
"This is an investigation that we requested back in 2006 after an MMS employee raised allegations of ethical lapses," Smith says.
One employee already pleaded guilty to violating conflict-of-interest laws.
Investigators have recommended firing those who are still working in the office and making sure they never work for the royalty program again. Some people who already moved on may not face any consequences.
Smith says his office is reviewing the reports' recommendations and will decide on the best course of action.
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