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EPA watchdog tallies up Scott Pruitt’s security costs, finds he spared no expense

Costs under Pruitt increased from $1.6 million to $3.5 million in just 11 months, at the expense of taxpayers.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, listens to a question during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill, May 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, listens to a question during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill, May 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Former Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt racked up outsized security costs during his tenure with the EPA, more than doubling the amount incurred by his predecessor, a long-awaited watchdog report confirms. In just 11 months, Pruitt spent $3.5 million in taxpayer dollars on security.

Two months after Pruitt’s resignation, a 60-page report from the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the controversial Trump administration official far exceeded the security expenses typical for his office during his time with the agency.

Released Tuesday morning, the report offers a comparison of costs incurred during the 11-month period reviewed by investigators between February 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017 and reveals that Pruitt more than doubled the amount spent on security compared to former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy during her last 11 months in office.

That increase in costs, the report notes, was “due primarily to the new
24-hour/7-day-a-week protection required by the Office of the Administrator and
increased costs to travel first class.”

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The OIG report further breaks down the comparison between Pruitt and McCarthy, noting that in October 2016, the Obama administration official had six full-time Protective Service Detail (PSD) agents providing “portal-to-portal” coverage, or door-to-door service. Pruitt, by contrast, had 19 agents providing 24-hour-a-day protection, seven days a week.

Pruitt’s heightened security cost taxpayers. The report also notes that agents “worked overtime without proper authorization” culminating in “improper payments of $106,507” during the period between January 2016 and March 2017.

Overall, the OIG concludes, Pruitt’s security use was an “undocumented decision” and “an inefficient use of agency resources,” undertaken without a threat analysis by the EPA to determine if the administrator in fact required extra security.

“Failure to properly justify the level of protective services provided to the Administrator has allowed costs to increase from $1.6 million to $3.5 million in just 11 months,” the report states.

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Those findings corroborate many of the accusations that swirled around Pruitt during his tenure as EPA administrator, which was marred by scandals and probes. While the former Oklahoma attorney general oversaw the mass-rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations, he also courted controversy with his lavish spending and heightened security use.

When he resigned in July, Pruitt was the subject of more than a dozen federal investigations. In addition to the alleged over-use of his security detail, Pruitt also tasked aides with finding his wife jobs and running personal errands on his behalf. He spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on first-class and business travel, as well as installing a $43,000 sound-proof phone booth in his office, a move investigators have already determined flew in violation of federal law.

In addition to Pruitt’s costly security detail, there was also reportedly a request to spend around $70,000 to replace two desks in Pruitt’s office with a bulletproof alternative. While this request was ultimately not fulfilled, another separate request to upgrade Pruitt’s official car was approved — this involved upgrading to a larger, more expensive vehicle with bullet-resistance covers over the seats. Thousands of dollars were also spent on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos” as part of increased security measures.

Pruitt reportedly asked for the additional security beginning on his very first day in office. According to the OIG report, acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler concluded the non-stop security practices imposed by Pruitt shortly after entering office.

While Pruitt has since been replaced by Wheeler, the investigations into the former agency official haven’t stopped. Tuesday’s OIG report was arguably among the most anticipated of those probes, but a number of additional investigations into the conduct of the second shortest-serving EPA administrator in history are ongoing, including those into Pruitt’s frequent trips home to Oklahoma and his decision to allocate personal tasks to aides.