NEW ORLEANS —
"The mayor also uses the vehicle in the normal course of his duties, just as other BP equipment is used in the course of day-to-day business," Creel wrote in an email.
Walker, the state official, said he didn't know about the mayor's use of the vehicle but doesn't object.
Some Mississippi communities took a conservative approach in using their share of the money. Bay St. Louis received $382,461 to buy safety vests, street barricades, radios and other gear, but decided against buying a vacuum truck or other expensive equipment. City Clerk David Kolf said local officials trusted BP's word it would handle all the cleanup, so they didn't see a need to buy a "bunch of new toys."
"They had a lot of heavy equipment already staged here," he said. "We don't have the training. We don't have the personnel."
Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama each got an initial $25 million from BP, followed by the array of payments for tourism marketing, seafood monitoring and cleanup programs.
More than $300,000 of BP money went to Kenny Loggins, the Doobie Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd for a pair of rock shows to promote the state's oil-free beaches; BP shelled out another $260,000 in concert-related costs.
In Alabama, the state Emergency Management Agency distributed $30 million to local governments without rejecting a single request.
Mississippi gave money to 14 counties and cities along the coast, which was dotted with tar balls but never saw the heavy bands of oil that choked south Louisiana's marshlands. In early August, after the well was capped and the oil threat seemed to abate, the state instructed counties and cities to stop spending BP's money without prior approval from state officials.
"We were trying to make the change from protection to restoration and recovery, and that's where we are now," Walker said.