Scott Pruitt condemned by federal ethics office, which calls for EPA investigation

April 9, 2018 GMT

The federal government’s ethics watchdog says that “extremely concerning reports” about Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s living accommodations, travel habits and handling of subordinates who disagree with him warrant a full and immediate investigation.

In a letter sent to the agency over the weekend, David Apol, the acting director and general counsel of the U.S. Office on Government Ethics, said the numerous ethical questions swirling around Mr. Pruitt could diminish Americans’ faith in their government.

“The success of our government depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve. The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed,” the letter reads in part.

Specifically, the ethics office cited the fact that Mr. Pruitt rented a $50-per-night condo last year from the wife of a prominent oil industry lobbyist who was pushing the EPA to take deregulatory steps beneficial to the fossil fuels sector.

“He apparently did not seek ethics advice in advance as to whether the terms of the lease were so favorable as to be a gift from the lobbyist,” Mr. Apol wrote.

He also cited Mr. Pruitt’s travel costs such as buying first-class plane tickets and personal security detail, which the administrator took with him on family vacations such as a trip to Disneyland.

Finally, Mr. Apol said media reports that Mr. Pruitt has demoted staff who were looking into his spending habits or had raised questions about his ethical conduct, warrants an immediate review.

“If true, it is hard to imagine any action that could more effectively undermine an agency’s integrity that punishing or marginalizing employees who strive to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that safeguard that integrity,” he wrote.

In an interview with The Washington Times last week, Mr. Pruitt said the ethical controversies are being used by his enemies to distract from his work implementing President Trump’s agenda.

“I think it’s a focus of distraction. I think it’s noise. It’s been noisy and competitive since day one, because this agency has been a bastion of liberalism since day one,” he said. “As we are making progress there and also reducing the regulatory burden, it is infuriating to those that have dominated and controlled the agency for years.”