After 15 months as the Department of Natural Resources man in charge of state oil and gas leases (and the revenue from them), David Boulet has left the department to return to the private sector.
"My tenure wasn't as long as I'd hoped," Boulet tells The Independent in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, "but the opportunity I was offered to return to the private sector was too good to pass up."
Boulet was hired to manage DNR's troubled Office of Mineral Resources by Secretary Thomas Harris in March, 2016. OMR's audit practices had been slammed by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, particularly in two 2013 reports. DNR whistleblower Dan Collins also discovered that maps on state oil and gas leases had been altered on at least two projects. The maps are produced by OMR.
In a November 2016 story in The Independent, Boulet discussed how OMR had languished without effective leadership for roughly five years before he was hired.
"It's been four or five years since an assistant secretary sat in this position," Boulet said then. "This office has been without real leadership during that time. Without leadership things slow down." He added that he viewed his charge from Secretary Harris to re-energize the office.
Boulet pointed out then that the office had five audit vacancies when he took the job. One of the final projects he worked on before leaving on May 12 was to work with Rep. Stuart Bishop on HB49 which would provide a funding stream to enable OMR to staff four new auditor positions.
"I helped put together the fiscal note on that bill," Boulet says of HB49. "It's a good bill that will help the department."
Bishop's bill, which would allocate $900,000 annually to OMR out of legal settlements over royalty disputes, was overwhelmingly approved by the House and now awaits consideration by the Senate Finance Committee.
Faced with the reality of a number of field auditors reaching retirement age, Boulet implemented a new training manual with the aim of bringing new auditors up to speed faster. He also implemented new audit tools and procedures aimed and providing faster turnaround on audit projects.
Oil and gas revenue from state-owned lands and water bottoms account for between five and eight percent of state general fund revenue depending on the price of oil and gas and levels of production.
Boulet left DNR to take a management position at Industrial Cooling Tower Services, Inc., a Baton Rouge company that builds, maintains and upgrades cooling towers for companies ranging from refineries to power plants. The company is part of Thermal Performance Group, Inc., which is headquartered in St. Francisville.
"We do work all across the Gulf South," Boulet explains.
According to Boulet, the company contacted him at the end of last year but he didn't decide to leave DNR until Easter.
"I told Secretary Harris right after Easter that I had decided to accept the offer I had," Boulet says. "He asked me to stay on until after the first May meeting of the Mineral and Energy Board, so I did."
"I enjoyed working at the department," Boulet says. "There are a lot of good people there. I had hoped my tenure there would have been longer. I just had to take this position for my family."
Boulet is the son-in-law of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco. He and his wife Monique reside in Lafayette. They are the parents of four children. Boulet holds a degree in mechanical engineering from UL Lafayette. He graduated in 1989.
Pat Courreges, DNR's communications director, says Harris will not name a successor to Boulet until after the end of the current legislative session. Assistant secretaries require legislative approval, according to Courreges, and there is not time to identify a nominee and get them through the review process before the current session ends on June 8.