Government Watchdog Says EPA Broke Law With Pruitt Phone Booth

Michael Osbun  Op-Art

Michael Osbun Op-Art

WASHINGTON-A $43,000 soundproof phone booth for Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt violated the law, a government oversight body said Monday, because the agency didn't notify Congress before making the purchase.

The law prohibits an agency from obligating more than $5,000 in federal funds to furnish, redecorate or make improvements in the office of a presidential appointee without first notifying appropriations committees in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Scott Pruitt ran afoul of a 2017 appropriations law and the Antideficiencies Act when creating the fixture, the Government Accountability Office said on Monday in a legal opinion. 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 spokeswoman Liz Bowman said the agency is "addressing GAO's concern, with regard to congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week". The lawmakers requested documents from Pruitt that would confirm these allegations.

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Pruitt, who was Oklahoma Attorney General before taking the EPA job, has been under fire for his spending on travel, security detail and renting a room in a condo owned by a lobbyist's wife for $50 a night.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The panel is asking for interviews with EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson, Chmielewski, Perrotta, the director of scheduling and advance Millan Hupp and Sarah Greenwalt, the senior counsel.

Pruitt had originally recommended the raises but was denied by the White House. Included in that amount was a $36,000 military flight so Pruitt could join President Donald Trump at a Cincinnati event, then make it to NY in time for his flight to Rome.

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