Docs Show EPA Chief Of Staff Authorized Huge Raises On Pruitt’s Behalf

The Washington Post/The Washington Post

The EPA’s inspector general released documents Monday showing how a small handful of senior advisers to Administrator Scott Pruitt received five-figure raises, most within months of their hirings.

Two staffers to receive huge raises have already been reported: The EPA went behind the White House’s back to increase senior counsel to the administrator Sarah Greenwalt and scheduling director Millan Hupp’s pay by $56,765 and $28,130, respectively, according to initial reporting. Hupp’s total salary increase since her hiring, documents now show, was actually $48,080, and Greenwalt’s was actually $66,244.

The pair were hired as “administratively determined” staffers under a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which does not require congressional or White House approval. They were then changed to “Schedule C” staffers a few months later, and then changed back to administratively determined staffers. Despite reported emails showing Pruitt’s approval of Greenwalt’s raises, his chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, took the fall for approving them.

Documents released Monday by the inspector general’s office show something in between: Jackson did in fact request the raises and appointment changes for Greenwalt, Hupp and several other staffers whose raises were previously unreported. Jackson also authorized them by signing “Ryan Jackson for Scott Pruitt.”

Ryan Jackson requesting, and “Ryan Jackson for Scott Pruitt” authorizing, a 50 percent raise and appointment change for EPA senior adviser Sarah Greenwalt.

Pruitt personally signed off on Greenwalt, Hupp, senior staffer Brittany Bolen and speechwriter Lincoln Ferguson’s initial hirings, and on Ferguson’s raise, but his signature doesn’t appear on the other personnel documents.

The Inspector General’s “management alert,” which was published Monday as part of the office’s larger continuing probe of Pruitt’s hiring practices, traced those staffers’ internal moves from administrative hires to “Schedule C” and noncareer Senior Executive Service positions: 

Nick Surgey, a journalist who co-directs the watchdog group Documented, matched up the anonymized letters in the OIG’s management alert with data from a separate list of administrative hires. According to Surgey, Employee “A” is Greenwalt; “B” is Hupp; “C” is Forrest McMurray, a special assistant for scheduling and advance; “D” is Elizabeth Bowman, the agency’s lead spokesperson; “E” is Kevin Chmielewski, the former Trump campaign staffer who was allegedly sidelined from his EPA job after blowing the whistle on Pruitt and his chief of security, Nino Perrotta; “F” is Bolen, senior deputy associate administrator for policy; and “G” is Ferguson, the speechwriter.

Despite Pruitt’s claim to Fox News that he’d halted Greenwalt and Hupp’s raises, the management alert said that EPA leadership could not provide evidence to support that claim.

We requested from the agency any documentation indicating modifications to the salary of any of the employees subsequent to the personnel actions noted above,” the alert read. “As of report issuance, the agency was unable to provide us with complete information or confirmation of any modifications.”

The inspector general noted that the EPA provided the following response to a draft of the management alert: “These salary determinations for appointees were made by the Agency chief of staff, White House liaison, and Agency human resources staff based on previous salary history and increases in salary were made due to either new and additional responsibilities or promotions.”

“The salaries involved were meant to correspond directly with the responsibilities the individual held and to attempt to ensure no salary disparities among positions of equivalent or similar responsibilities with other political appointees as much as possible,” the EPA’s response continued. “As employees continue to work in the agency reaching milestones like one year of employment and/or continue to take on new responsibilities, we will further evaluate their salaries to ensure the employees compensation is commensurate with their seniority and work.”

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