Editorial: Investigate Gale Norton for corruption
"Whatever happened to staying awake on your watch? This is the question posed by yet another example of top-level government officials apparently asleep at the wheel while the vessel they were supposed to be steering veered off course.

Granted, this pales next to the proposed $700 billion tab for cleaning up the mess from the subprime mortgage crisis and its fallout, but when it involves allegations of government employees abusing drugs, rigging bids, accepting gifts and having trysts with those whom they are supposed to be watching, one has to ask how it got to that point.

The alleged transgressions took place at the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service, which markets billions of dollars worth of oil and natural gas that energy companies barter to the government in lieu of cash royalty payments for drilling offshore. Last year the agency received $4.3 billion in royalty-in-kind payments.

According to recent reports from the Interior Department’s internal watchdog, between 2002 and 2006 nine employees of the Minerals Management Service allegedly accepted thousands of dollars in gifts, including meals, ski and golf trips, concert tickets and snowboarding lessons. Two of them accepted gifts on 135 occasions from four energy companies — Shell, Chevron Corp., Hess Corp. and Gary-Williams Energy Corp. — that did business with the Denver office.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who took office in 2006, promised prompt action: random drug testing, banning all employees in that division from receiving gifts and gratuities and a new attorney-adviser who concentrates on ethics.

That is reassuring, but the taxpayers deserve the satisfaction of knowing that any crimes committed will be duly prosecuted, not simply for the sake of keeping a key office on the up-and-up, but to warn other federal employees from the Cabinet level on down that malfeasance won’t be tolerated.

Equally important, how did it get to that point? Who was asleep at the wheel for four years while the shenanigans were compromising the integrity of the agency? Any investigation must answer those questions and look all the way up the chain of command, including former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, who held the office from 2001 to 2006, when the alleged transgressions took place, because the failure involves not only the nine who stepped out of bounds, but also those who were responsible for watching them."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Chain of command always accountable (The Reading Eagle 9/28)

Another Opinion:
Editorial: Sex, drugs and oil leases (Gatehouse News Service 9/25)

OIG Reports:
Gregory W. Smith | MMS Oil Marketing Group - Lakewood | Federal Business Solutions Contracts

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