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Two top officials close to Pruitt resign in EPA ‘exodus’

Pruitt's head of security and his Superfund site manager both stepped down amidst growing scandals.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. CREDIT: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. CREDIT: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Two top officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have announced they are resigning as numerous investigations into Administrator Scott Pruitt ramp up: Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, who led Pruitt’s 24-hour security detail, and Albert “Kell” Kelly, who was in charge of Superfund sites at the agency. Both men were close allies of the EPA administrator.

In a phone interview with ABC News, Perrotta said he resigned from his post at the EPA on Monday. This comes as the House Oversight Committee is expected to interview the former head of security on Wednesday. Perrotta said he plans to “fully cooperate and answer any and all questions.”

Meanwhile, Axios reported on Tuesday that Kelly, a longtime Pruitt ally, has also decided to resign. Kelly — who had no previous experience in managing environmental issues or Superfund sites — had been facing calls from lawmakers for the EPA’s internal watchdog to investigate whether Kelly was properly vetted before being hired into the high-level position, and whether he has violated any federal rules since joining the EPA.

In an EPA statement emailed to ThinkProgress Tuesday, Pruitt said, “Kell Kelly’s service at the EPA will be sorely missed.”

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The news of Kelly’s resignation comes amidst growing concerns about his past history as a banking executive — last year he was banned for life from the industry by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

It was also recently reported that in 2003, Kelly’s bank helped Pruitt get a mortgage for an Oklahoma City house purchased through a shell company.

In Kelly’s defense, the EPA emailed a statement to media from Frank Keating, former Oklahoma governor and former chief executive of the American Bankers Association, which said, “Kell Kelly is a man of high integrity. During my time as CEO of the American Bankers Association, Mr. Kelly served as my chairman and helped lead the association through a difficult period following 2008 financial crisis.”

Meanwhile, as Pruitt’s head of security, Perrotta traveled with Pruitt on several trips as part of the administrator’s round-the-clock security detail. He has also been named in several recent allegations against Pruitt. This includes reports that he helped to steer a bug-sweeping contract to a colleague at an outside security firm, a claim he has denied. According to Politico, Perrotta has also been a “driving force” behind the ever-increasing costs for Pruitt’s security.

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And according to former EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski, Perrotta tried to have Chmielewski’s EPA credentials confiscated, and threatened to go to Chmielewski’s home and forcibly retrieve his EPA parking pass in the lead-up to Chmielewski’s dismissal from the agency.

Perrotta told ABC he resigned for personal reasons. “All of this press is taking a toll on my family,” he said. “I decided to move on and it’s been an honor to serve.”

In a separate statement to the media, the EPA also confirmed Perrotta’s resignation. “I want to thank him for his service and wish him the very best in retirement,” Pruitt said in the statement.

The two resignations come as Pruitt faces numerous ongoing ethics scandals about his spending habits and the way he has run the agency. As a result, the administrator is currently facing at least 10 different ethics investigations.

In addition to getting a sweetheart deal last year on a Capitol Hill condo linked to an energy lobbyist, the Government Accountability Office found recently that the EPA broke the law when Pruitt’s office spent $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth.

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Questions remain about the significant raises given to close Pruitt aides, while separately, it has been reported that Pruitt retaliated against staff who raised concerns about his spending and management practices — a claim Pruitt denied last Thursday during two hearings. 

In a statement reacting to the news, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) said, “Scott Pruitt should be the next to go.” Beyer is among the lawmakers who have been calling for investigations into the allegations against Pruitt.

“The exodus of Pruitt’s closest aides shows just how toxic his reign at EPA has become,” Beyer added. “Albert Kelly was never qualified to run Superfund, his banking ban was a huge red flag, and his resignation is a positive development. The EPA needs new leadership from public servants committed to its mission of protecting the environment and putting Americans’ public health first.”