The EPA should consider asking its former administrator, Scott Pruitt, to pay $123,942 back to the government, internal government investigators said Thursday. That’s the combined extra cost to taxpayers of flying Pruitt and his security detail in first- or business-class luxury over several trips in 2017.
The former administrator famously began flying first class regularly in May 2017 in order to avoid people cursing him out in public.
As EPA Office of Criminal Enforcement director Henry Barnet told Politico in February last year: Pruitt’s team felt “it would be better suited to have him in business or first class, away from close proximity from those individuals who were approaching him and being extremely rude, using profanities and potential for altercations and so forth.”
Thursday’s report, the result of audit by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General, asserts that the EPA under Pruitt’s watch didn’t have “clear delegation of authority” for approving Pruitt’s flights, nor did it “always justify” using non-contract air carriers.
“Compliance with federal regulations in the selection of first/business class carrier and flights was not documented,” added a press release accompanying the report, which also dinged Pruitt’s habit of bringing a phalanx of guards with him everywhere he went.
“The EPA improperly approved business-class travel for Protective Service Detail agents and other staff accompanying the Administrator on international travel,” it read. The IG’s office already concluded in September last year that Pruitt’s security team was unjustified and needlessly expensive.
Taxpayers spent nearly $1 million on Pruitt and his staff’s 40 trips (including $106,701 spent on six cancelled trips) between March and December 2017, the OIG probe released Thursday found. Nearly 82% of that was spent on airfare. Sixteen of those trips were destined for, or stopped in, Pruitt’s hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The probe into Pruitt’s travel was one of more than a dozen investigations into his activities by the time he resigned from the EPA position last July, having lost valuable allies. Pruitt, who was replace by coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, is now a registered lobbyist himself. Surprise!