SeaWorld: OSHA investigator helped 'Blackfish' filmmakers
Marine park asking feds to investigate OSHA employee's conduct
SeaWorld has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, claiming an inspector with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration illegally shared confidential records with a producer of the documentary "Blackfish."
OSHA inspector Lara Padgett's investigation into the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 led to workplace safety citations and a $12,000 fine issued to the marine park. SeaWorld is appealing those citations in federal court.
In their complaint, SeaWorld claims it has obtained evidence that Padgett disclosed confidential SeaWorld documents in violation of federal law while attending the January 2013 premier of "Blackfish" at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
According to the complaint, an undisclosed witness gave "Blackfish" executive producer Tim Zimmermann a computer thumb drive, which that witness later saw him insert into a laptop while sitting beside Padgett.
When the thumb drive was returned to the witness, it contained OSHA's internal SeaWorld investigation file, including documents marked "Confidential Trade Secrets," according to SeaWorld's complaint.
SeaWorld officials said they now have that thumb drive in their possession.
When photographs first surfaced online last month showing Padgett socializing with the cast and crew of "Blackfish," Zimmermann denied receiving any documents from Padgett and told Local 6 the OSHA employee "had nothing to do with the production of the film."
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Attached to their complaint, SeaWorld included numerous Facebook, Twitter and other social media posts reportedly created by Padgett expressing support for "Blackfish," a film SeaWorld has criticized as being "misleading, inaccurate, and agenda-driven."
"SeaWorld...believes that Ms. Padgett's disclosure of confidential information and other conduct reflect an intense bias and a desire to assist those in the animal rights community who have publicly, and for many years, demonstrated a desire to damage SeaWorld as a viable business," writes SeaWorld attorney Carla Gunnin. "This bias brings into question the objectivity of the entirety of her inspection activities and seems motivated by factors wholly unrelated to OSHA's mission of 'assuring safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women.'"
Last month, OSHA announced it had already launched an investigation of Padgett.
"OSHA is committed to fair and effective enforcement of safety and health requirements in the workplace," said OSHA spokesman Jesse Lawder. "Allegations involving employee conduct are taken seriously and OSHA is investigating."