ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – The shooting of an Arizona congresswoman and rising tempers along the Gulf Coast prompted increased security for meetings on Tuesday between BP's oil spill claims czar and residents seeking compensation.
Metal detectors and additional police officers were added at two events attended by fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg in Alabama. Feinberg is on a two-day tour to discuss ways to improve the process for compensating people who lost money because of BP PLC's April 20 oil well blowout. The spill dumped millions of gallons of crude into the sea.
More than a thousand people crowded into an Orange Beach gymnasium to hear Feinberg talk. Each one had to first walk through a metal detector and remove all items from their pockets.
A similar procedure was used at an earlier meeting Tuesday in nearby Bayou La Batre. The security measures weren't in place at previous meetings.
Frustration has grown among residents who feel they're not being compensated enough, and meetings with Feinberg have grown increasingly heated.
"It's become very frustrating, an emotional drain on people," Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said.
Kennon said he didn't want to take any chances after the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that critically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killed six people and wounded 12 others. He said there haven't been any specific threats.
"But there's no way I wanted to look back and have regrets," Kennon said.
Feinberg has faced repeated criticism that he is not compensating people enough for their losses, paying too slowly, or denying claims altogether. He is in charge of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which is doling out $20 billion of BP's money to business owners and others impacted by the spill. Feinberg has said he is doing the best he can given the more than 470,000 claims for compensation. He has repeatedly promised fairness and more transparency in the process.
Feinberg said he has no plans to add his own security.
"I don't think any of it is necessary," he said after the meeting. "I don't worry about it at all."
Feinberg said he understands the rising tempers and frustrations but doesn't feel threatened.
"People are legitimately frustrated and concerned by their financial situation," he said.
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