Sex, drugs, oil and gas

WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne told a House committee Thursday that he might fire employees in the agency that collects oil and gas royalties, a week after the department’s inspector general reported extensive ethics abuses there.

Mr. Kempthorne also said his department would follow all of the recommendations from the inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, to improve the Minerals Management Service, including enhanced oversight of the agency and a stronger ethics program.

“This process will be completed as swiftly as possible, and we will examine the full spectrum of disciplinary actions, including termination,” Mr. Kempthorne said.

In three reports released last week, Mr. Devaney detailed what he called a “culture of ethical failure” that existed at the agency from 2002 to 2006, including high-ranking officials who defied procurement regulations and employees who had sexual relationships with and accepted gifts from oil company employees.

Mr. Devaney told the House Natural Resources Committee that the employees involved in the scandal “had a callous disregard for the ethical rules by which the rest of us are required to play,” while Mr. Kempthorne called their actions inexcusable.

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