- Ethics counsel says arrangment didn’t violate regulations
- Pruitt’s Capitol Hill room was’ a gift, ’ watchdog says
The Environmental Protection Agency says family members of Administrator Scott Pruitt also stayed in the Capitol Hill condominium partly owned by the spouse of an energy lobbyist under his $50 -per-night lease, but that the arrangement doesn’t violate ethics regulations.
Under the lease’s unconventional terms, Pruitt was permitted only to pay only for nights when the condo was employed. Documents reviewed by Bloomberg, including the lease and copies of his canceled checks, indicate he paid $6,100 to use the room over roughly six months last year after being picked to run the EPA.
The revealings follow criticism about Pruitt’s use of first-class flights to travel around the globe, a series of expensive trip-ups including a visit by Pruitt and agency staff to Italy, and the installation of costly security measures in his Washington office at the EPA.
Critics, including the government watchdog group Public Citizen, have called for the EPA’s inspector general to analyse. Jeffrey Lagda, a spokesman for the office of labour inspectors general’s office, said the OIG was ” aware” of the request for a probe, but declined further comment.
” This appears to be a gift from a lobbyist to the EPA administrator ,” Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, said in a news release.” Scott Pruitt seems to be renting at well below market value — from a family member of a lobbyist who has business before the EPA .”
The condo is co-owned by health-care lobbyist Vicki Hart, whose spouse, J. Steven Hart, is president of Williams& Jensen, a lobbying firm with clients in industries regulated by the EPA. Hart has said he didn’t personally lobby the EPA in 2017 or this year.
After ABC reported that Pruitt’s daughter McKenna, who was a White House intern for part of 2017, stayed in a second bedroom at the condo, the agency released a March 30 memo from the EPA’s designated ethics official, Kevin Minoli.
The memo, to EPA General Counsel Matthew Leopold, acknowledged that Pruitt’s daughter and wife also utilized the condo when in Washington, but said it was permitted under federal guidelines because rent was paid.
If the bedroom had been used for an entire 30 -day month, the rental cost would have been $1,500,” which is a reasonable market value ,” Minoli wrote.
‘Not a Gift’
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement that” As EPA career ethics officials stated in a memo, Administrator Pruitt’s housing arrangement for both himself and family was not a gift and the lease was consistent with federal ethics regulations .”
Steven Hart, in a statement posted to the Associated Press on Friday, described Pruitt as a friend from Oklahoma with whom he had scant contact.” Pruitt paid all rent owed as agreed to in the lease ,” Hart said.” My wife does not and has not ever lobbied the EPA on any matters .”
After ABC News reported the living arranging on March 29, EPA aides had to seek documentation from the building’s owners to prove he had paid rent, creating fears at the White House, said two people very well known the situation, who asked not to be named discussing a sensitive matter involving a Cabinet secretary. Pruitt was in Wyoming that day.
The EPA had to reimburse Hart $ 2,460 for damages after Pruitt’s security detail in March 2017 broke down the building’s front door, according to ABC News, quoting a person very well known the arrangement who it didn’t name, and the Washington Post. Members of the security squad believed Pruitt was unresponsive and necessary rescue, but he was find groggy after an afternoon sleep and declined medical attention, according to ABC News.
Pruitt, 49, has since signed a lease in a high-end complex on Capitol Hill, where rents for one-bedroom apartments go for as high as $4,100 a month.
EPA officials have defended Pruitt’s use of first-class travelling on security grounds, saying he’s been the subject of threats, although he’s since shifted to coach-and-four. Several of the trips were to Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma, where more than aas attorney general from 2011 to 2017 he sued relevant agencies he now heads more than a dozen times.
In addition to criticisms about his traveling expenditures, Pruitt has been mocked for install an $25,000 secure” privacy booth” in EPA headquarters. Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island mocked itas a” cone of silence” after the 1960 s spoof “Get Smart” about a bumbling American spy.
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