Yes, there is some abuse of 110.26 by both some inspectors, some 'plant safety guys' and some sparkies.
The disco up above the drop ceiling, I have no issue with, in sight of the equipment served, and IDd as to the source of the feeder/branch circuit. I just completed an HVAC replacement project at a utility training center with 68 AHs all above the drop ceilings, with no issues.
As to the LOTO, yes, I have come upon both extremes, overkill, and 'where is it'. Tape is not a LOTO, no matter what you write on it. One facility has LOTO on all new installs until inspections are completed, 6 locks are common.
H2Os case is just the AHJs decision. A talk may help.