EPA spent nearly double what it's allowed to decorate Scott Pruitt's office: Report

Key Points
  • EPA spent at least $9,600 decorating Administrator Scott Pruitt's office, exceeding a $5,000 federal spending limit, according to an analysis of an internal document by the Hill.
  • An EPA spokesperson said the agency actually only spent $4,984.06, excluding certain expenses the Hill counted in its tally.
  • A former EPA aide turned whistleblower said Pruitt had promised to reimburse the agency for at least one of the items.
Scott Pruitt, EPA
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The Environmental Protection Agency spent nearly double what is allowed under federal rules to decorate the office of its embattled administrator, according to an internal document seen by The Hill.

The report is the latest allegation of the Trump EPA playing fast and loose with its budget and ignoring spending rules. EPA chief Scott Pruitt is facing about a dozen investigations into issues including his travel and security detail costs and his rental of a Capitol Hill condo linked to an energy lobbyist for just $50 a night.

An early investigation into Trump's EPA found that the agency violated the law by installing a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in Pruitt's office without seeking approval from Congress.

Now, the Hill reports that EPA spent at least $9,600 to decorate Pruitt's office. Federal agencies are allowed to spend up to $5,000 for that purpose, after which they must seek approval from Congress before authorizing further expenses.

The costs include $1,950 in moving costs for artwork loaned to EPA by the Smithsonian Institution, $2,500 for framing and roughly $5,000 to purchase one desk and refurbish another.

EPA watchdog opens probe into Pruitt condo rental

An EPA spokesperson told the Hill that EPA actually only spent $4,984.06. The spokesperson, Jahan Wilcox, arrived at that total after subtracting the refurbished desk, which he said was offered by the Office of Administration and Resource Management and two framed certificates that he claimed qualify as gifts given to administrators. The tally also omits an American flag worth more than $900 and the cost of moving one of the paintings, both of which occupy a lobby.

However, Kevin Chmielewski, a former EPA staffer, told the Hill that the lobby is actually a waiting area in Pruitt's executive suite. He also claimed he arranged the framing himself and said Pruitt had promised to reimburse the agency for a framed photo with Trump.

Chmielewski, a former Trump campaign aide, detailed some of the decorating costs in a list of allegations against the EPA after allegedly being fired for questioning Pruitt's spending habits.

Separately, an online survey conducted by HarrisX for Axios showed that more than a third of Americans are somewhat aware of scandals involving Pruitt. Meanwhile, 16 percent said they are very familiar, and 48 percent said they are not at all familiar.

Four-fifths of respondents said Pruitt should lose his job if EPA's inspector general concludes he abused his power.

Read the Hill story here.

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