Published: Tue, April 17, 2018

Scott Pruitt broke the law with $43000 phone booth, investigators find

Scott Pruitt broke the law with $43000 phone booth, investigators find

In addition, GAO found that since EPA spent its appropriated funds in a way banned by the law, it also broke the Antideficiency Act and needs to report its violation to Congress and the president.

"It is critical that EPA and all federal agencies comply with notification requirements to Congress before spending tax payer dollars", the Wyoming Republican said.

In its report, the GAO explicitly said it drew "no conclusions" about whether or not the privacy booth was necessary for secure communications.

Pruitt had the booth built, according to the GAO, at the request of his security team so that he had a place to make and take "classified" phone calls and other calls to "discuss sensitive information".

In an eight-page letter to lawmakers, Thomas H. Armstrong, the G.A.O.'s general counsel, said the agency did not send advance notice to Congress when it paid $43,238.68 from its Environmental Programs and Management budget to pay for the installation of the soundproof booth.

The EPA had argued that the nearly $25,000 customized phone booth - which required painting, concrete and electrical work totaling more than $18,000 to reconfigure the small closet area where it was placed - was not part of a redecoration of Pruitt's office and should not be subject to the $5,000 cap.

"The GAO letter "recognized the.need for employees to have access to a secure telephone line" when handling sensitive information", said EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman.

EPA said the bill for the soundproof booth, built in a former storage closet in Pruitt's office, included more than $24,000 for the booth itself and its assembly, $8,000 to remove closed circuit television equipment, $3,300 to drop the ceiling around the booth and another $3,300 for painting.

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. However, GAO disagreed with that interpretation of the law, and determined that the EPA was required to report construction of the booth to lawmakers. The Associated Press first reported in December that the EPA also spent about $9,000 for an outside contractor to sweep Pruitt's office for secret listening devices and has installed biometric locks.

At least four members of Congress, including Senator Tom Udall (D, New Mexico), accused Pruitt of blatantly abusing his position to enjoy unnecessary perks at his office. "EPA is addressing GAO's concern, with regard to Congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week".

But Trump on several occasions gave Pruitt a vote of confidence, saying earlier this month, "I think he's done a fantastic job".

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.

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