In a so-called "government watchful", EPA inspector-general Arthur Elkins Jr. explained his team had examined employees records for 6 workers who were hired or had received increases beneath a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act as Pruitt arrived to the bureau past year.
"EPA violated section 710 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2017 when it failed to notify the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and Senate prior to obligating in excess of $5,000 to install a soundproof privacy booth for the office of the Administrator during his period of appointment".
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"Today's GAO report is the latest proof of the rampant corruption and misconduct at the Environmental Protection Agency under Administrator Pruitt", Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, said in a statement.
Pruitt had the booth built, according to the GAO, at the request of his security team so that he had a place to make and take "classified" phone calls and other calls to "discuss sensitive information".
Kevin Chmielewski, formerly Pruitt's deputy chief of staff for operations, told congressional investigators last week that although Jackson signed off on the raises, Pruitt knew about the entire process. In its report, the GAO explicitly said it drew "no conclusions" about whether or not the privacy booth was necessary for secure communications.
Jackson increased the aides' pay using a special authority the EPA has under the Safe Drinking Water Act, after the White House rejected the EPA's request to make the raises through the normal procedure for political appointees. But based on the details in the report, two of them appear to be Pruitt's scheduling director Millan Hupp and senior counsel Sarah Greenwalt, and the EPA declined to identify the third one.
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EPA chief Scott Pruitt's ethics problems keep piling up.
Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Tom Carper, D-Del., have also written the EPA's inspector general, asking him to investigate Pruitt's multiple emails. "An illegal privacy booth to conduct secret discussions with his polluter friends does nothing to help our health or environment", said Sen.
"It's simple: Pruitt broke the law, and no amount of excuses can save him now", Brune added.
Republicans also expressed concerns in response to the GAO ruling released today.
GAO general counsel Thomas Armstrong said the agency also violated the federal Antideficiency Act, "because EPA obligated appropriated funds in a manner specifically prohibited by law". The Associated Press first reported in December that the EPA also spent about $9,000 for an outside contractor to sweep Pruitt's office for secret listening devices and has installed biometric locks.
Scott Pruitt blew past the law that says agency heads can't spend more than $5,000 to furnish, redecorate or make improvements to their offices without Congressional approval, according to the Government Accountability Office, The Washington Post reported.
EPA in the past has run up against GAO legal opinions.