OIG Clears Bolden of Ethics Issues Involving Marathon Oil Corporation

Alleged Ethics Violation by the NASA Administrator Involving Marathon Oil Corporation.

"In sum, we found no evidence that Bolden or Marathon received a present or promised financial benefit as a result of Bolden's call. We also found that the information Bolden received from Marathon did not cause him to withhold funding to the OMEGA project or to direct that the proposed MOU with the Navy be abandoned. We concluded that Bolden's contact with Marathon regarding OMEGA did not violate federal laws or regulations pertaining to conflicts of interest. However, we found that the contact was not consistent with the Ethics Pledge he, as an Administration appointee, had signed, and that it raised concerns about an appearance of a conflict of interest involving the NASA Administrator and a large oil company to which he had financial ties. When interviewed by the OIG about this matter, Bolden readily acknowledged that he had erred in contacting Marathon. Bolden said he has since recused himself from issues involving OMEGA and has received supplemental training regarding his ethical responsibilities."

... Finally, we believe that apart from the obligations imposed by the statute and NASA policy, OGC attorneys did not serve the best interests of the Administrator or NASA by failing to report the matter to the OIG. At issue was whether the top NASA manager had complied with his ethical obligations. Because the OIG enjoys a level of independence from the Administrator not shared by OGC attorneys, Bolden's actions should have been referred to the OIG for its review and disposition."

- Charlie Bolden's BP Moment, earlier post
- MSNBC Video: OMEGA, Marathon, and Bolden, earlier post

Keith's note: I still find it rather startling that someone of Bolden's stature would not have been throughly briefed on such ethical issues prior to taking the job and that he now needs "supplemental training" to deal with such issues. Although he is probably one of the most honest people you'll ever meet, his contact still had the clear scent of an apparent conflict of interest - however inadvertent. Indeed, I am startled that Bolden even picked up the phone in the first place.

Keith's update: NASA PAO has issued this statement from Charlie Bolden: "I have reviewed the report and I readily accept the findings of NASA's Inspector General. My intention was to gather an outside perspective about a potential agency research project. However, I should have explored the implications of my inquiry prior to acting. As soon as a possible conflict of interest was identified, I proactively contacted our General Counsel and fully supported an independent review of my actions. The OMEGA research project continues to move forward and its future development will be decided solely on its technical merits. Although the Inspector General found that no laws were broken, this incident serves as a reminder that we must all strive to hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct - and I have a responsibility to set that example for NASA and its senior leaders."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on September 20, 2010 12:00 PM.

Judith Robinson was the previous entry in this blog.

Media Reaction to Bolden's Ethics Faux Pas is the next entry in this blog.

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