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Former MMS Official Fined for Conflict Violation

A retired official of the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) was sentenced last Monday to probation and a $2,000 fine for felony violation of rules governing employees after they leave the federal government.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Jones for the District of Nevada apologized to Milton Dial, former deputy associate for MMS in Colorado, as he assessed the minimum sentence on him for illegally awarding a contract to a company run by a retired agency colleague, the Associated Press reported (see NGI, Sept. 22, 2008). Dial, 60 and a resident of Las Vegas, NV, pleaded guilty to the charge last September. He faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,00 and supervised release.

The judge said he believed that Dial, who upon retiring from MMS accepted a subcontractor position for a colleague's company that directly contracted with the agency, was "selected out for prosecution" on a conflict of interest charge that "high executives in our government violate all the time," the AP reported.

"Nobody accuses you here of defrauding the government or taking funds," Jones was quoted as saying. As for the conflict of interest charge, "it's a felony, but it is a pretty reduced one."

Dial accepted a position as a subcontractor working for and representing a former colleague's company in a contract with MMS approximately six months after retiring from the agency in 2004, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Prior to retiring from the agency, Dial admitted that he created the evaluation criteria for the bids for this same contract, had served on the evaluation committee that awarded the contract to his friend's company and had served as the contracting officer's technical representative at the MMS for the company's contract up until the time of his retirement.

The company was a sole proprietorship owned by a friend and former MMS colleague of Dial's, Jimmy Mayberry. In July 2008 Mayberry pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a felony violation of the conflict of interest law. He admitted in plea documents that he created the requirements for the same contract immediately before his retirement from the MMS, knowing that he would bid on the contract immediately after his retirement.

Mayberry, former special assistant to the associate director of Minerals Revenue Management at the MMS, was sentenced last November to two years of probation and a $2,500 fine by Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. of the District of Columbia.

An investigation by Interior's Office of Inspector General revealed that Mayberry and Lucy Querques Denett, associate director of MMS' Minerals Revenue Management, had acted together to create the lucrative contract for Mayberry when he retired in January 2003 to start a consulting firm, which he called Federal Business Solutions. In June 2003 MMS awarded a contract to Mayberry's firm.

Dial, who was good friends with Denett and Mayberry, oversaw the contract for MMS. In February 2005, shortly after his retirement from MMS, Dial began working for Mayberry. When the original contract expired, MMS awarded a new contract to Mayberry's firm in January 2006.

Dial and Mayberry were the only two former MMS officials who were charged and sentenced following a two-year investigation of more than a dozen current and former MMS employees for their part in a sweeping scandal, which involved drugs, sex and contract misdealing. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced recently that he has re-referred several cases to the DOJ to review whether appropriate sanctions were meted out (see NGI, Feb. 2).

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