Elizabeth Birnbaum: Did She Really Resign?

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Oil Spill
Flickr photo by Hopeful in NJ
S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, Director of the Mineral Management Service (MMS), resigned today, making her the latest MMS resignation following the BP oil spill.

The MMS is part of the US Department of the Interior. It manages the natural gas, oil, and other mineral resources on the US outer-continental shelf and collects money from companies that lease there.

MMS has often been the subject of scrutiny for less-than-kosher practices. In 2008, several MMS employees were terminated after they were discovered for accepting bribes and gifts and even sexual favors from oil industry employees. There were also allegations of drug use.

Birnbaum took the job in July 2009 -- long after that scandal -- but had still been under siege in recent weeks following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill CNN has declared "the worst in US history."

According to ABC News, Birnbaum wrote a short resignation letter to Secretary Ken Salazar, saying, in part: “I’m hopeful that the reforms that the Secretary and the Administration are undertaking will resolve the flaws in the current system that I inherited.”

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama also took the blame in a press conference following her resignation: “Salazar came in and started cleaning house and culture had not fully changed at MMS, and absolutely I take responsibility for that,” he said.

In a statement released to the media, Secretary Salazar said Birnbaum had been “a strong and effective person and leader." He went on to say that she left on her own volition, but the rumor mills are swirling that, in fact, she was dismissed.

Do you think she really quit or was pushed out in the wake of the embarrassment?

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