GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport councilman Rusty Walker doesn't mince words when the issue of BP's relationship with his city comes up. "They're not dealing fairly with us," Walker said during a phone conversation with WLOX News Director Brad Kessie. "They're using low level flunkies to deal with us."
Walker admits his anger with BP stems from Gulfport's efforts to work with the company on a post-oil spill settlement. That anger becomes evident in a news release he sent to the media on Tuesday afternoon.
"BP's office in Gulfport does not make up for the negative impact of the oil disaster it was responsible for. It's affect on our City will be felt for years," the councilman wrote."
"In fact, this new office should facilitate direct communications with BP management on the damages and losses that have been suffered and will be suffered in the future by the City. However, to date, BP has refused to deal with the City on a direct basis and instead has tried to force the City to deal with an array of contract adjusters, lawyers, and consultants such as Witt and Associates, headed by Democratic FEMA director, James Lee Witt, with no experience in understanding local government finances or short or long-term community redevelopment.
In the interest of a timely settlement and desire to avoid unnecessary costs, the City has tried to seek a non-judicial resolution for BP oil spill related damages.
But BP continues to demand that initial contact must be channeled through processing personnel with no management authority who have already deemed that the City should only be compensated in an amount that equals no more than $1.11 per resident of Gulfport. This is an insult to the people and the City of Gulfport. It is an affront to common sense and reality.
BP's offer is based on an arbitrary formula that it wants the City to follow. Should it be any wonder that Gulfport has developed an alternative to that formula?
It is only reasonable that we will want to discuss our approach with real managers of BP, not low level surrogates.
Finally, BP needs to stop trying to mislead the public and media to think that federal law mandates how compensation is decided from its $20 billion fund. Just as it compensated a business partner for $10 million without any reference to federal law, BP can make compensation on any basis that it agrees to. The $20 billion set aside to pay for current and future losses due to the oil disaster it caused, is private money that BP can allocate on any basis it chooses.
A BP office lease in Gulfport is in and of itself not a bad thing; attempts to buy off the City through such an effort is.
I will work through the City Council to make clear that the damage suffered by our community is way beyond $1.11 per resident. To be considered a good neighbor, BP needs to deal with the City of Gulfport with honesty and fairness. Our citizens deserve no less."
WLOX News is attempting to reach BP for a response to Councilman Walker's comments. As soon as we hear from a BP representative, we'll post that on WLOX.com.