DeGette Asks EPA Watchdog to Investigate Whether Pruitt Abused Position for Housing Deal and Intimidated Ethics Officials
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), ranking member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, joined three fellow Democratic leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee in sending a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General (IG) Arthur Elkins, Jr. today requesting that his office open an investigation focusing on whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has misused or abused his position to inappropriately enrich himself or his family members and whether EPA’s political leadership applied political pressure on Agency ethics officials.
The request comes after seemingly contradictory statements and materials were released by EPA’s Office of General Counsel and an Agency ethics official regarding Pruitt’s unique Washington, D.C. housing arrangement in 2017. EPA Senior Ethics Counsel Justina Fugh reportedly made an initial determination that Pruitt’s use of the property did not constitute a gift under federal ethics regulations, a determination that apparently did not consider use of the property by Pruitt’s adult daughter. Fugh’s determination appeared to contradict a March 30, 2018, memorandum from EPA Designated Agency Ethics Official and Principal Deputy General Counsel Kevin Minoli stating, in part, that the lease authorized use of the property by Pruitt and his immediate family, a statement disputed by the property owners. Yesterday, Minoli issued a subsequent memorandum confirming that he lacked key facts when making his March 30 determination.
The letter was also signed by Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) and full committee Vice Ranking Member Kathy Castor (D-FL).
“We have serious concerns that Mr. Pruitt may have misused his position as EPA Administrator to improperly enrich himself or his family members through this preferential and unique housing arrangement,” DeGette and fellow lawmakers wrote to the EPA IG. “Furthermore, the potentially contradictory actions by EPA’s Office of General Counsel also raise serious concern that EPA’s political leadership may be exerting undue pressure on Agency ethics officials and that the advice and determinations of Agency ethics officials are being altered as a result of this pressure.”
The Democrats request the EPA IG to review and investigate a number of concerning issues, including:
· Have Pruitt’s Washington, D.C. housing arrangements or any other action by Administrator Pruitt improperly or unlawfully financially enriched Pruitt or any family member as a result of his position as EPA Administrator?
· How much money has EPA spent on costs associated with Pruitt’s Washington, D.C. housing during his tenure as EPA Administrator, including but not limited to funds for any rental agreements, or repairs or improvements to properties rented by Pruitt or his security detail? What was the purpose of these expenditures, and was each expense in compliance with all applicable regulations and Agency policies and procedures? Has any waste, fraud or abuse occurred in expenditures of agency funds or resources, including Agency personnel, for housing for Pruitt or his security detail?
· Has any waste, fraud or abuse occurred with the use of agency funds, personnel, or other resources for travel or housing arrangements during periods in which Pruitt lacked a Washington, DC residence, including but not limited to August 2017.
· Has Administrator Pruitt or any other member of EPA’s political leadership inappropriately sought to influence the ethics officials in EPA’s Office of General Counsel? Did any direct or indirect action or request by political leadership serve to alter ethics advice provided by the office?
The Democrats’ letter is available here.