The head of the Environmental Protection Agency violated the law when installing a soundproof booth in his office, according to the top federal auditor.
The GAO's conclusions compound on other troubles facing Pruitt, who is also under investigation by the EPA's Office of Inspector General for a number of ethical and spending matters, including his use of first- and business-class travel and expensive hotels for government business, as well as retaliatory actions toward employees who are said to have challenged the spending. "Accordingly, section 710 [of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act] applied to this obligation and EPA was required to notify the appropriations committees of its proposed obligation", Thomas Armstong, the GAO's General Counsel wrote in a letter to Democratic lawmakers on Monday.
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"Not even Scott Pruitt's secure phone booth can hide his illegal actions". "EPA is addressing GAO's concern, with regard to congressional notification about this expense and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week", EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said.
The GAO decision quotes often from an EPA March 23 letter by Kevin Minoli, the agency's principal deputy general counsel, that pushes back on its ruling.
In its explanation to the GAO included in the report, the EPA equated the booth to other necessary office supplies and argued it was needed to "support specific mission requirements" and allow Pruitt to carry out agency business "without concern that classified, deliberative, privileged, or sensitive information might inadvertently be disclosed to those who are not meant to receive such information".
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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. They blasted the EPA chief after the decision was released today.
The chief of workers to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt authorized salary increases to at least three employees - one of that was worth 72 percentage, " the agency's watchdog revealed. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees EPA.
Democrats and a few Republicans have been calling on Pruitt either to resign or be fired since late last month, when media reports first disclosed that he had rented a Capitol Hill condo tied to an oil and gas lobbyist at the bargain rate of $50 a night. "He must fire him immediately", said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.
Pruitt's office said he needed the secure booth to make classified calls..
"Because EPA violated this statutory requirement, we also conclude that EPA violated the Antideficiency Act and should report its violation to the Congress and the President as required by law", GAO said in a statement by one of its attorneys, Julie Matta. Congress passed the legal provision to enable the EPA to better attract scientists and experts, but it did not put those restrictions on the agency.