SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The Nation

April 11, 2011

AP IMPACT: BP buys Gulf Coast millions in gear

(Continued)

NEW ORLEANS —

The Louisiana attorney general's office has spent $4 million and counting of BP's money to hire outside lawyers and accountants to help piece together litigation against the company. Five of the seven law firms hired and their attorneys have poured more than $80,000 total into Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's campaign coffers in recent years.

Amber Davis, who lives with Gulf County, Fla., Commissioner Bill Williams, incorporated Statecraft LLC less than a month after oil began streaming into the Gulf. Three months later, Statecraft won a monthlong, $14,468 contract to perform public information and government liaison work for the county of about 15,000 people.

Davis, who has worked in marketing and community relations, said she had planned to form her company before the spill. She also had volunteered for the county's emergency operations center for three months before she was given the contract.

"There is a perception of a conflict of interest in just about anything that anybody does," Davis said. "I guess my statement to that was that I volunteered anywhere from 15 to 18 hours a day for three months and never received a penny."

Williams said he consulted the county attorney and an ethics commission, and neither saw a problem with awarding the contract to Davis.

Gulf County awarded an identical one-month, $14,468 contract — this one for monitoring beach pollution — to Florida Eco Services, a company founded days after the rig explosion by Patrick Farrell, whose wife is on the board of the local Chamber of Commerce. Farrell says he has a background in managing and maintaining properties, as well as beach restoration.

County Attorney Jeremy Novak, who also is an attorney for Florida Eco Services, said it was a matter of giving business to locals rather than out-of-state contractors.

"It sounds like a bias, and it is, but I'm glad people in Gulf County got work and actually had the ability to feed their families," Novak said. "I don't see it as profiteering. I see it as obviously doing what you can because what you're doing for a living isn't available to you."

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