Wednesday, September, 8, 2010
Written by The Independent Staff

Hey, we’re all for government regulators passing a good time, but not with the companies they’re supposed to be regulating. So it was with long overdue applause that we greeted news that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has imposed first-ever ethics rules that, among other things, prohibit inspectors from dealing with a company that employs a family member or personal friend and requires BOEM employees to disclose conflicts of interest. It’s a step in the right direction. Formerly known as the Minerals Management Service, the agency was scandalized over the last year amid revelations that MMS employees routinely accepted gifts from the oil and gas companies they were supposed to be regulating, had sexual relations with company executives and, in one instance, smoked crystal meth with an oil company rep. Following the BP Gulf disaster, MMS changed its name. We hope the new ethics policies will change its culture.


The dire predictions of economic doom resulting from the deepwater drilling moratorium have not yet — and may not — come to pass. But the perception by tourists that the Gulf is polluted and its beaches blackened has put an awful ache in the hospitality industry. According to credit card data from Visa, tourism spending in Louisiana plummeted 65 percent from May to June as a result of the BP spill. Mississippi saw a similar decline. Concomitant to the drop in tourism spending was BP’s advertising expenditures, which have been a boon for daily newspapers and television stations. A company representative told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that BP spent about $93 million on advertising from April to the end of July. Many if not most of the tourists who frequent Gulf beaches are upstate residents of Gulf Coast states, within earshot of BP’s advertising blitz. And when BP intones in its best voice of contrition, “We will make this right,” we’re reminded something is wrong.

The Lafayette Housing Authority is driving a lot of us crazy. First gear: the audit questioning the agency’s finances. Second gear: the crazy pay increases — from $11 dollars an hour to $37/hour in a two-year span — for contract case managers. We moved into overdrive last week when news broke at that Jonathan Carmouche, the LHA official in charge of the agency’s Disaster Housing Assistance Program, has been tooling around in an LHA sport utility vehicle with a suspended driver’s license stemming from an unpaid traffic ticket in Iberville Parish (he reportedly paid the ticket the day we broke the story). We also learned last week that former LHA board member Leon Simmons, canned the week before by City-Parish President Joey Durel but who still works as an LHA volunteer, pulled up to a protest in front of the agency’s office in an LHA van. LHA Director Walter Guillory defended Simmons’ use of the van, saying he uses it for such services as delivering meals and shuttling elderly LHA clients to casinos. Yes, casinos. Someone, please, put the LHA in reverse!

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