NEW ORLEANS (CN) - A panel that included a U.S. senator and Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of BP's $20 billion claims fund, prematurely ended its question and answer session at the Hilton Riverside Hotel when questions were increasingly outweighed by dark comments, including one from a man who called Feinberg a liar.
Most comments were directed at Feinberg, though Senator Mary Landrieu danced around a question directed at her about oil-drilling regulations, saying she was "not here to stomp all over the industries that are here."
No one from BP or the State of Louisiana was present at the Thursday meeting.
Speaking to Feinberg as an agent of BP, the last member of the public to take the mike said Feinberg's entire process has been an exercise in limiting the liability of an oil giant.
"Congratulations, the national media thinks there's no problem," the man said, adding that the burden of the oil spill should not fall on the sick and destitute.
Feinberg, who makes $1.25 million a month as the administrator of BP's oil spill fund, did not reply. But twice during the meeting he indicated that he thinks public money - not BP's money - should be used to pay for people who are sick or out of work because of the oil spill.
"We enlisted Catholic Charities to figure out what to do and what to do about subsistence claims," Feinberg said.
He did not say, however, that both BP and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), which he oversees, recently refused to help Catholic Charities with any money to ease the nonprofit's operating deficit.
Immediately after the oil spill one year ago, BP gave Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans $1.25 million. Catholic Charities spent $700,000 of it right away on food vouchers for the people who had lost their jobs to the oil spill. It spent the rest quickly on bringing resources to hard-hit communities.
The charity's bank account has been slammed by the oil spill; it estimates it can continue operating only until June unless more money comes in.
From his personal email account, Feinberg denied Catholic Charities' request on April 6.
"Under the GCCF protocols for payment of claims and under the Oil Pollution Act, these losses would not be considered losses of profits and would not be compensable by the GCCF," Feinberg wrote.
Catholic Charities asked Feinberg for the money after BP's human resources manager in New Orleans, Iris Cross, told the charity it had to go through the GCCF.
Still, during the meeting Thursday, Feinberg recognized the need for nonprofits to address the human disaster left by the spill.
"Nonprofits don't get the press, they don't get the thanks," Feinberg said. "I don't think this country could be what it is without the nonprofits."
Later, in response to pleas for medical help from a man who says he is seriously ill from exposure to oil and dispersants, Feinberg was tentative about whether his medical claim would be paid through the GCCF.
"Do you have workers' compensation or Social Security?" Feinberg asked.
Sitting on the panel with Feinberg was David Freedman, general manager of WWOZ-FM and a member of the Gulf Relief Foundation executive committee. Freedman cited Feinberg's past successes in handling Agent Orange claims and as special master for the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.