USA environmental agency broke law with soundproof booth

Cheriss May  Zuma

The EPA also said that the booth was "analogous to other functional items an employee might require to perform his job duties such as a high speed computer, high speed copier/scanner, or television" - even though no previous agency head had a similar set-up and there were secure lines already in place at EPA headquarters.

In Minoli's letter, EPA told GAO that the booth "not only enables the Administrator to make and receive phone calls to discuss sensitive information, but it also enables him to use this area to make and receive classified telephone calls (up to the top secret level) for the objective of conducting agency business". It is among several unusual security precautions taken by Pruitt that are now under scrutiny, like his use frequent use of first-class flights to avoid unpleasant interactions with other travelers.

EPA spent about $25,000 on the privacy booth and an additional $18,000 on costs associated with modifying a storage closet connected to Pruitt's office to accommodate it. Tom Carper of DE and Tom Udall New Mexico, and Reps. "An illegal privacy booth to conduct secret discussions with his polluter friends does nothing to help our health or environment", said Sen.

"Scott Pruitt likes to talk about returning the EPA to the rule of law, but it turns out he's better at breaking it than following it".

Pruitt and those around him are under multiple investigations launched by government watchdogs and congressional committees. The White House is reviewing Mr. Pruitt's activities, and the Office of Government Ethics has urged the EPA to investigate possible. The unusual hiring and granting the raises of two Oklahoma aides using the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 drew plenty of scrutinies.

EPA senior legal counsel Sarah Greenwalt, 30, got two raises totaling more than $66,000, bringing her salary to $164,200 a year - a 67.6 percent increase from her starting salary.

Pruitt has faced growing criticism and angry questioning from Democratic and Republican lawmakers over his spending habits.

In a joint statement issued Monday, Udall and McCollum said the GAO report was "the latest proof of the rampant corruption and misconduct" at EPA under Pruitt.

Also on Monday, the EPA's Office of Inspector General released documents showing EPA's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, had signed off on pay raises for three of Pruitt's staff, including a raise of $29,000 to above $114,000 for his scheduling director, Millan Hupp.

The management alert does not identify which EPA employees received the raises approved by Jackson.

Pruitt's EPA has argued that the booth should not be considered an office redecoration or renovation and thus should not be subject to the $5,000 limit.

"It is critical that EPA and all federal agencies comply with notification requirements to Congress before spending taxpayer dollars", he said. "EPA must give a full public accounting of this expenditure and explain why the agency thinks it was complying with the law".

In a April 4 meeting with Fox News, " Pruitt asserted he wasn't sure perhaps whoever authorized the raise turned into a career EPA worker or some political appointee.

"You need to go into another line of work if you don't want people to be mean to you", the South Carolina Republican quipped. "Like maybe a monk".

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