A lawyer working for the administrator reviewing claims from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has abruptly resigned amid charges that he collected money from settlements handled by a New Orleans law firm to which he had referred claims.
Lionel H. Sutton III, who was placed on administrative leave after the charges were made public, has voluntarily resigned from the Deepwater Horizon Claims Administration, agency spokesman Nick Gagliano told The Times. Gagliano said he could not discuss any details of the departure.
“While it is under investigation, we cannot make any statements,” Gagliano said in the telephone interview.
Telephone calls made to Sutton were not returned.
The Associated Press this week reported that Sutton was mentioned in allegations that he had referred claims to a New Orleans law firm in exchange for portions of subsequent settlement payments. The lawyer allegedly filed those claims before he went to work for the agency, according to people familiar with the situation but who were not identified by the news service.
Friday’s action grows out of the nation’s worst environmental disaster and the subsequent legal proceedings over the cleanup and compensation.
In April 2010, the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers. About 200 million gallons of crude oil from the Macondo well a mile below the surface poured into the gulf. Before the well was capped in July, oil had floated to the coast, collecting on beaches and marshes from Louisiana to Florida, fouling businesses from fishing to tourism.