×

Security for EPA chief comes at a steep cost to taxpayers

  • FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2017 file photo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator-designate, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Pruitt has spent millions of dollars in taxpayer funds on unprecedented security precautions that include a full-time detail of 20 armed officers, according to agency sources and documents reviewed by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. Scott Applewhite



Associated Press
Saturday, April 07, 2018

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s concern with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes.

Altogether, the agency spent millions of dollars for a 20-member full-time detail that is more than three times the size of his predecessor’s part-time security contingent.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox cited “unprecedented” threats against Pruitt and his family as justification for extraordinary security expenses such as first-class airfare to keep him separate from most passengers – a perk generally not available to federal employees.

But Pruitt apparently did not consider that upgrade vital to his safety when taxpayers weren’t footing the bill for his ticket. An EPA official with direct knowledge of Pruitt’s security spending said the EPA chief flew coach on personal trips back to his home state of Oklahoma.

The EPA official spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

New details in Pruitt’s expansive spending for security and travel emerged from agency sources and documents reviewed by the Associated Press. They come as the embattled EPA leader fends off allegations of profligate spending and ethical missteps that have imperiled his job.

President Donald Trump offered a full-throated defense of Pruitt in a tweet Saturday night, saying the EPA chief is “doing a great job” and downplaying the ethical questions swirling around Pruitt. He called the security spending “somewhat more” than Pruitt’s predecessor and said Pruitt had received death threats “because of his bold actions at EPA.”

Shortly after arriving in Washington, Pruitt demoted the career staff member heading his security detail and replaced him with EPA Senior Special Agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent who operates a private security company.

The EPA official knowledgeable about Pruitt’s security spending says Perrotta oversaw a rapid expansion of the EPA chief’s security detail to accommodate guarding him day and night, even on family vacations and when Pruitt was home in Oklahoma.

Perrotta also signed off on new procedures that let Pruitt fly first-class on commercial airliners, with the security chief typically sitting next to him with other security staff farther back in the plane. Pruitt’s premium status gave him and his security chief access to VIP airport lounges.

The EPA official said there are legitimate concerns about Pruitt’s safety, given public opposition to his rollbacks of anti-pollution measures.