Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson said he, not Administrator Scott Pruitt, authorized raises for two staffers over White House objections.
Jackson told Politico on Monday night that Pruitt “had zero knowledge” about key details of the raises. Jackson’s statement came after The Atlantic suggested Pruitt lied on national television about what he knew of the raises.
“Administrator Pruitt had zero knowledge of the amount of the raises, nor the process by which they transpired,” Jackson said in a prepared statement. “These kind of personnel actions are handled by EPA’s HR officials, Presidential Personnel Office and me.”
Democrats and environmentalists have called on Pruitt to resign over first-class flights, his renting of a room from a D.C. lobbyist’s wife and two staffers receiving raises over White House objections, which The Atlantic reported in early April.
Two EPA staffers who worked with Pruitt in Oklahoma were granted big raises despite White House staffers rejecting the idea. The Atlantic reported the staffers got raises after being reclassified under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Jackson said the raises were “similar to their peers given their responsibilities over the past year,” adding their starting salaries were lower because they moved to D.C. from Oklahoma.
Pruitt subsequently told Fox News he didn’t know the raises were granted until The Atlantic reported them. Pruitt also said he did not know which staffers authorized the raises.
“It should not have been done,” Pruitt said. “There will be some accountability.”
The Atlantic published another article on Monday, citing EPA sources, claiming the existence of an email from one of the EPA staffers who got a raise saying something to the effect of “the administrator said that I should get this raise.” The report suggested the email’s existence meant Pruitt lied on television.
Jackson responded to that story as well, telling The Atlantic those kinds “of personnel actions are handled by myself, EPA’s HR officials and [Office of Presidential Personnel (PPO).”
“These kind of personnel actions are handled by EPA’s HR officials, PPO and me. Any communications claiming otherwise are simply inaccurate,” Jackson said.
Congress and EPA’s Office of Inspector General are looking into the raises given to EPA staffers.