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

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

Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is now investigating Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, had some harsh words for Pruitt's controversial travel habits. The EPA shelled out more than $43,000 to buy and install the booth. Beyond that, the agency spent another almost $20,000 on concrete floor leveling, ceiling installation, painting and removal of closed-circuit television equipment to accommodate its installation.

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

GAO disagreed, saying even by that logic, EPA should have notified Congress. EPA officials said Congress was intending to restrict only an "aesthetic improvement" to appointees' offices, but GAO said they were selectively reading the statute.

"EPA is addressing GAO's concern, with regard to Congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week", said Liz Bowman, an EPA spokeswoman.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report on Monday that the E.P.A. was required to notify Congress before spending more than $5,000 on office equipment or decorations.

A former senior aide to Pruitt has detailed what he calls a long list of wasteful spending and unethical behavior on behalf of Pruitt to congressional investigators, according to a letter signed Thursday by Democrats in both houses of Congress.

The privacy booth, which Pruitt had told lawmakers in a hearing was needed to conduct agency business, was built in a spot of a former storage closet in administrator's office. He repeated the phrase during remarks Thursday at the White House.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who is overseeing an investigation into Pruitt as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, skewered the administrator on Sunday over his claim that he booked first-class flights to avoid verbal attacks from fellow passengers in the coach section. The EPA could, however, face administrative penalties under the Antideficiency Act.

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