Oil spill claims still not answered (VIDEO)


ORANGE BEACH, Alabama (WALA) – “Get me that claim!” GCCF administrator, Ken Feinberg repeated those words countless times during the public meeting in Orange Beach three weeks ago. So, we asked the people who heard those words if Feinberg has followed through with any results.

Promises Not Kept?

On January 18 when claims administrator Ken Feinberg spoke to a public audience in Orange Beach, he made promises. Often after hearing a person’s story he would ask for the claim, but three weeks later responses are hard to come by.

Buck Mitchell, who runs the Seville Quarter in Pensacola, took the microphone and said to Feinberg, ”Why would you pay the employees and not pay the job creators?”

Feinberg responded, “I obviously cannot speak to your individual claim, but I’ll take a look. I will take a look at it.”

Three weeks later Mitchell has had no response.

Condo cleaner Stacy Simmons stood up and told Feinberg her story.

She said, “I have every documentation here to prove it and I’m not understanding why I cannot get any answers or any money or anything to compensate me.”

Feinberg responded, ”Get me that claim before I leave.”

Once again, three weeks later, no response.

Susan Carnley lost more than $30,000 on a home sale during the oil spill.

”There was no market,” Carnley said. “There was nobody looking for property in Orange Beach, or Fort Morgan, or Pensacola Beach.”

Her claim was denied and still no response.

At the meeting, condo-owner Laszlo Halaszi said, ”If anyone ran their business like this, they would be out of business in two months. Apparently, Mr. Feinberg is more interested in saving BP money than making us whole.”

Halaszi, handed his paperwork directly to Feinberg. To date, he’s had no response.

Lawmakers Respond

We asked local lawmakers what they’re doing about the claims process and how they’re trying to put pressure on Feinberg. Here is their responses:

Senator Jeff Sessions, who was at that meeting, says he continues to push Feinberg about eligibility and transparency. In a statement Sessions said,

“I have followed-up with Mr. Feinberg in person on two separate occasions to emphasize our desire for swift and clear action on these issues. It is too early to tell if these new criteria will address the 40,000+ claims in Alabama in an expeditious manner, and I will be following this process closely.”

Senator Richard Shelby recently testified about the claims process in front of the Homeland Security subcommittee. Shelby stated,

“I have met with Mr. Feinberg several times since the Gulf Coast Claims Facility was created. Yet, I continue to have serious concerns regarding the claims determinations made by this organization. Those affected by the spill need to know that there is transparency, clarity, and consistency in the payment process.”

Congressman Bonner Statement on GCCF Claims Payment Status:

“While Mr. Feinberg continues to boast that he is paying legitimate claims, the hundreds of individuals and business owners who’ve contacted my office over the last five months with denied claims tell a different story.”

“After repeated meetings with Mr. Feinberg which produced little more than empty assurances of improvement, I contacted the U.S. Justice Department last November to seek federal oversight of the claims process. I also invited Associate U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perrelli to South Alabama to see first hand the negative impact of Mr. Feinberg’s biased treatment of claims.”

“After his visit to Baldwin County last week, Associate U.S. Attorney General Perrelli called on the GCCF to reevaluate its claims eligibility requirements. BP is obligated under the Oil Pollution Act to pay for damages that result from the oil spill and the GCCF may not disqualify claims based on arbitrary categories determined by BP and Mr. Feinberg.”

“I will continue to work with the U.S. Justice Department to hold Mr. Feinberg accountable for every unpaid legitimate claim.”

At FOX10 News we’ll continue to track those struggling with the claims process and keep working to get answers.

See video here: http://www.fox10tv.com/dpp/news/gulf_oil_spill/oil-spill-claims-still-not-answered

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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