US Politics

Two top US EPA staff members quit amid fury over ‘ethics violations and excess spending of tax money’ claims directed at Scott Pruitt

Security chief Pasquale ‘Nino’ Perrotta and Superfund clean-up head Albert ‘Kell’ Kelly have both stepped down as their boss, Scott Pruitt, continues to undergo scrutiny over alleged ethics violations

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2018, 2:45am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2018, 2:47am

Two high-level Environmental Protection Agency employees whose names have come up in investigations of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s ethics and travel have resigned from the agency, the EPA confirmed on Tuesday.

Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent who served as the head of Pruitt’s security team, resigned on Monday but said he will continue to cooperate in a US House of Representatives investigation of his role in costly decisions around Pruitt’s security. ABC News first reported the resignation on Tuesday.

Albert “Kell” Kelly, who ran the agency’s Superfund clean-up programme – which cleans up oil spills and similar sites – also announced his resignation, the EPA confirmed. Kelly was barred by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from working at any US financial institution after unspecified violations while working at a bank in Oklahoma.

EPA head Scott Pruitt denies having ethical lapses

Lawmakers last week grilled Pruitt in back-to-back hearings on reports of ethics violations, excessive spending on travel and security, close industry ties and the reassignment of agency whistle-blowers who flagged concerns about high spending.

Those issues included the installation of a US$43,000 soundproof phone booth in Pruitt’s office and routine use of first-class flights – both of which the EPA has argued were important to Pruitt’s safety and privacy.

Pruitt praised both men for their work at EPA, citing Kelly’s “tremendous impact on EPA’s Superfund programme” and Perrotta’s service to four EPA administrators.

Scott Pruitt ‘illegally spent US$43,000’

House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said on Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation that his committee had scheduled interviews with Perrotta and other senior Pruitt aides this week.

A committee aide told Reuters the staff will conduct a transcribed interview with Perrotta on Wednesday and that his resignation will not affect his appearance before the panel. The committee also is confirming dates for transcribed interviews with other EPA witnesses, the aide said.

The panel received more than 1,000 pages of documents it requested from the EPA in February and April related to Pruitt and his staff’s use of first-class flights and a condo rental agreement between Pruitt and the wife of an industry lobbyist.

President Donald Trump has not indicated whether the investigations would affect Pruitt’s tenure.

Donald Trump defends EPA chief Scott Pruitt

“At this point, EPA is complying with our requests,” the aide said.

Several Republicans in the House who have embraced Pruitt’s deregulatory agenda said Pruitt was unfairly grilled by Democrats but others said his answers to some key questions were vague.