"Since running our Blackfish interviews with Mark Simmons and Bridgett Pirtle last week, we have received a lot of feedback from our readers. In Bridgett’s interview, there was a picture that included the “Cast of BlackFish” we received a few concerning emails about a person in the pictures. One reader asked 'Why is Lara Padgett, the OSHA Investigator in Florida, in the picture with the Cast and Crew of Blackfish?'
"After doing some digging, we learned that Lara Padgett was the lead OSHA Investigator who examined the incident at SeaWorld Orlando on February 24th, 2010. Since then she has been involved in the investigation and the appeals and testified in April 2013 on behalf of OSHA. While MiceChat doesn’t know why the lead OSHA investigator would be at the Sundance, New York and Sarasota premiere of Blackfish, along with film Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Tim Zimmerman, David Kirby, Samantha Berg, Jeff Ventre, John Jett, and more.
"Obviously, this information begs further investigation by news agencies as this looks to us to be a serious conflict of interest at the very least. We’ve reached out to OSHA and Orlando media with the information we were sent by our readers as this story is a bit beyond our scope here at MiceChat. We’re sure that better connected agencies will be able to get to the bottom of this surprising turn of events. We’ll let you know what we learn in our next update."
"We are aware of OSHA inspector Lara Padgett’s affiliations with the cast of 'Blackfish'," said SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs. "To build its anti-captivity narrative, it relies on the accounts of people who are animal activists and are anything but objective in their point of view. Ms. Padgett appears to be one of them."
Per Subpart B, Ms Padgett is limited to accepting gifts of less than $20 per occasion with a yearly cap of $50 from any source, organization, or group of people. If any part of her travel to the film festivals were paid for by the Blackfish people, she is in direct violation of the law. Of course if she paid for the trip with her own funds, she would be okay in this situation, but I wouldn't count on it. I can't think of a single federal employee who has the funds or the contacts to hang out with the Hollywood crowd.
Where she's really in hot water though is where she shows up in the picture. That's a direct violation of Subpart E: Impartiality in Performing Official Duties. There is no defense for her to be in these pictures or at these film festivals hanging out with the Blackfish crowd. None! People like her make the rest of us civil servants look bad, and I hope she gets the appropriate punishment.
Looks like SeaWorld just got a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.