WASHINGTON — Scandalized by federal regulators who had sex with oil company executives and negotiated with them for jobs, the agency that oversees offshore drilling is imposing a first-ever ethics policy that bars inspectors from dealing with a company that employs a family member or personal friend.
Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said the new policy should help restore credibility to his beleaguered agency, which was widely criticized under its former name — the Minerals Management Service — for being too close with oil and gas companies.
President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have pledged to end the agency's "cozy relationship" with industry and slow the revolving door between government and the energy industry.
Under the new policy, agency employees must notify a supervisor about any potential conflict of interest and step aside when inspections or other official duties involve a company that employs a family member or close personal friend.
Inspectors who join the agency from the oil industry cannot perform inspections or other work involving their former employers for two years.
The new policy, which takes effect immediately, comes after a series of jaw-dropping reports documenting the close relationship between agency workers and energy company representatives.
In May, the Interior Department's acting inspector general singled out workers in the agency's Lakewood, Colo., office for having sexual relationships with energy company executives and accepting gifts from them.
Mary Kendall, Interior's acting inspector general, said her biggest concern was the ease with which drilling agency employees moved between industry and government. Inspectors and oil company workers have often known one another since childhood, and their relationships took precedence over their jobs, Kendall said.