Government Watchdog Says EPA Broke Law With Pruitt Phone Booth

Michael Osbun  Op-Art

The G.A.O. said it was not taking a position on whether or not the installation of the privacy booth was necessary, but was focusing only on whether the agency violated the Antideficiency Act, which is created to prevent the spending of money that has not been budgeted.

"We draw no conclusions regarding whether the installation of the privacy booth was the only, or the best, way for EPA to provide a secure telephone line for the administrator", GAO said.

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

Presidential appointees are required to let congressional lawmakers know about any office upgrades that exceed $5,000, according to the letter obtained by the Washington Post.

The auditors called on EPA to "report its Antideficiency Act violation as required by law". The Department of Justice has not brought charges against under the Antideficiency Act in modern history. According to Kevin Chmielewski, a senior EPA official who served as Pruitt's deputy chief of staff until he was put on unpaid administrative leave earlier this year, Pruitt apparently used his director of scheduling as his personal real estate agent, considered spending $100,000 a month on a private jet rental service, and told his staff to "find me something to do" in particular cities and countries that he wanted to visit for reasons apparently unrelated to his work at EPA. In a statement, Sen. "EPA must give a full public accounting of this expenditure and explain why the agency thinks it was complying with the law".

The investigation by Gowdy, the House Oversight Committee Chairman, has continued after reports surfaced that Pruitt had been renting a room in Washington, DC, for below market price from a family with ties to an energy lobbyist.

"If you sit first class, you're guaranteed to come into contact with everybody else on the plane".

In a Monday report, the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) concluded, based on documents provided to investigators by the agency, that Ryan Jackson signed off on the five-figure raises, but indicated that Pruitt authorized them.

The phone booth is not the only controversial move Pruitt made without first seeking approval. "Like maybe a monk", he continued. "However, we recognize the requirement to protect classified material and the need for employees to have access to a secure telephone line when handling such information in the course of conducting official agency business".

"These are operated by EPA sub-organizations and are located three floors away from the Administrator's office", the report states.

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