April 23, 2018 / 9:00 PM / 3 months ago

Pruitt's spending on security sweep draws fresh fire from lawmakers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s spending came under scrutiny again on Monday as congressional Democrats said a sweep last year for listening devices in his office was poorly done and the contractor improperly hired.

Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, testifies to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee oversight hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

In a letter chair of the House Oversight Committee Trey Gowdy, five Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives cited documents they obtained from a whistleblower.

The documents “may constitute evidence of a violation of law” an “abuse of authority” and a “gross waste of funds,” the lawmakers wrote.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment about the security sweep. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the Pruitt scandals and said, “We’re reviewing some of those allegations.”

Pruitt has come under fire for his spending on travel and office improvements, and a Government Accountability Office report last week said the agency violated the law when it spent $43,000 on a secure soundproof booth for Pruitt’s office. [L2N1QO1Q1]

The Democrats, who include Senators Thomas Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse and House appropriations ranking member Elijah Cummings, said the documents showed the EPA in March 2017 paid $3,000 for a security sweep by Edwin Steinmetz of Sequoia Security Group using “an EPA credit card without first obtaining the required pre-approval.”

Steinmetz is a business partner of Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, who heads up Pruitt’s security detail, and the contract may have been improperly directed to Steinmetz, they said.

EPA’s Office of Homeland Security concluded a month after the sweep that it was “very basic and cursory” and “did not employ the equipment, proper certification or necessary processes” to assure Pruitt’s office was safe for classified information, the Democrats said.

Some of the EPA officials who received a copy of the EPA Office of Homeland Security evaluation were reassigned after questioning the agency’s spending on security measures, the lawmakers said, citing a New York Times report earlier this month.

Gowdy’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, has already launched probes into some recent allegations of Pruitt’s spending on premium travel and security. The White House Office of Management and Budget is also investigating Pruitt’s spending.

Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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