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Trust
Fired DOI auditor recovered tribal royalties


An auditor who lost his job after he filed a lawsuit alleging fraud at the Interior Department had recovered more than $20 million in royalties for the Mescalero Apache Nation of New Mexico.

Bobby L. Maxwell was praised by former Interior Secretary Gale Norton for his "exceptional performance." But top officials now claim he is greedy because he stands to gain a share of any royalties that might be recovered from big oil and gas companies.

"These people could be entitled to collect 30 percent of the money that is owed to the government, for work they were already being paid to do," Johnnie M. Burton, the director of the Minerals Management Service and a former energy executive, told The New York Times.

Maxwell was one of the only people who listened to tribal complaints about underpaid royalties, a lawyer for the Mescaleros said. Errors by DOI and by oil and gas companies led him to recover more than $20 million for the tribe.

His efforts covering leases on federal land led to the recovery of nearly $440 million as of 2002. But with the Bush administration encouraging and approving more development, enforcement payments have dropped considerably as energy companies reported record revenues.

Maxwell's lawsuit, filed under the False Claims Act, was met by a huge challenge from all the major oil and gas companies. But an appeals court rejected their attempt to silence Maxwell and other auditors and the case is moving forward.

Get the Story:
Blowing the Whistle on Big Oil (The New York Times 12/3)
pwnyt
U.S. Oil Lease Official May Have Misled Congress, Lawmaker Says (Bloomberg News 12/1)

GAO Letter:
Suggested Areas for Oversight for the 110th Congress (November 17, 2006)

Inspector General Testimony:
Devaney Interior Department: A Culture of Managerial Irresponsibility and Lack of Accountability? (September 2006)

Inspector General Report:
Allegations Concerning Senior Officials of the Office of Special Trustee for American Indians (May 2005)

Relevant Links:
Government Accountability Office:
Office of Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov

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