Two EPA Officials Stepping Down Amid Ethics Investigation

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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In what is seen as another major blow to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, two officials have resigned from the agency.

Albert “Kell” Kelly and Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta — two Pruitt allies engulfed in their own separate scandals — tendered their resignations on Monday. Kelly served as head of the Superfund, a program that is tasked with cleaning up contaminated sites. Perrotta was in charge of leading Pruitt’s 24/7 security detail.

Kelly, a former banking executive, is leaving following public revelation that he was barred from working in the finance industry for violating regulations. A report in December 2017 by The Intercept revealed Kelly and Pruitt to be close friends in their home state of Oklahoma, with Pruitt appointing him to the EPA not long after he was banned for life from the finance industry by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

“Kell Kelly’s service at EPA will be sorely missed. In just over a year he has made a tremendous impact on EPA’s Superfund program, serving as chair of the Superfund Task Force and presiding over the development of the steps necessary to implement the recommendations in the report,” Pruitt said in a Tuesday statement.

Perrotta, on the other hand, is at the center of a growing controversy over Pruitt’s lavish security expenses that have sparked several federal probes. Around $3 million has been spent on Pruitt’s security, including overtime pay and first-class travel. Many of expenses were approved by Perrotta.

“Nino Perrotta has selflessly served the American people for more than 23 years, beginning his career as a special agent with the United States Secret Service and then serving four EPA Administrators. His hard work and dedication will be missed by all those who worked with him. I want to thank him for his service and wish him the very best in retirement,” Pruitt stated to Axios on Tuesday.

Their resignations follow the departure of another top EPA employee in April. Samantha Dravis, who served as Pruitt’s policy chief, left the agency in early April.

Negative headlines continue to build for Pruitt. The EPA administrator is facing mounting criticism for what opponents characterize as mismanagement and unethical behavior. The EPA investigator general’s office is currently reviewing Pruitt’s use of a security detail while taking personal trips, the IG announced in a letter sent April 17. The EPA leader was already under investigation for taking first-class flights on the taxpayer’s dime, purchasing a $43,000 soundproof phone booth for his office, and giving questionable raises to employees. The growing inquiry into Pruitt’s conduct began after it was discovered he had been renting a Capitol Hill bedroom for $50 per night from the spouse of a prominent energy lobbyist.

Pruitt and his allies, however, maintain the extra security was necessary due to threats and aggression he has received since leading the EPA.

From February 2017 to August 2017, an Office of Inspector General report detailed 13 different threats Pruitt received. While ranging in severity, the threats typically stemmed from hateful online messages, emails and mail.

In a situation that is still breaking, the EPA went on lockdown Tuesday morning after the agency received a suspicious package. A hazmat team has gone in to investigate the situation. “Hazmat team is on its way for a suspicious package on the second floor of headquarters,” an EPA official told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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