Accountability Office: $43000 soundproof booth for EPA head violated law

Ex-Trump aide on leave after questioning Pruitt's spending

An internal government watchdog says the Environmental Protection Agency violated federal spending laws when purchasing a $43,000 soundproof privacy booth for Administrator Scott Pruitt's office. "EPA's failure to comply with a governmentwide statutory requirement that an agency notify the appropriations committees before it spends more than $5,000 for the office of a Presidential appointee is the only legal issue addressed in this opinion", said Julie Matta, GAO's managing associate general counsel, in a statement.

It is not yet clear what the consequences, if any, may be. Donald Trump shouldn't wait to see what ethical norm or law Pruitt breaks next.

The chief of personnel to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt authorized salary increases to three or more staff - just one of that was values 72 percent revealed. "So the notion that I have to fly first class because I don't want people to be mean to me, you need to go into another line of work if you don't want people to be mean to you, like maybe a monk where you don't come in contact with anyone", Gowdy said. Previous EPA chiefs did not use a secured phone booth in their office to run the agency.

The EPA disputed that it was required to notify Congress before making the purchases and did nothing wrong. "EPA is addressing GAO's concern, with regard to Congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week".

The deal cost EPA about $43,000, including a almost $25,000 contract with a specialty acoustics company for the soundproof booth's purchase, delivery and assembly. The total price of around $43,000 included renovations to prepare space for the booth, including removing a closed circuit camera system.

But GAO noted the agency didn't say whether the booth was certified as a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF.

Pruitt had originally recommended the raises but was denied by the White House.

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The phone booth itself cost more than $24,000, and was installed in a storage closet inside Pruitt's office, the missive notes.

EPA's "Security Management Division requires that a classified telephone must be located in an area where the employee can have private conversations".

The agency violated the law by using more than $5,000 of fiscal 2017 appropriated funds for an unintended objective without giving lawmakers advance notice, GAO investigators wrote in a report released Monday.

The GAO-which is the federal government's independent watchdog-also found that the EPA allocated the funds in a way that violated a second federal law, the Antideficiency Act.

"The privacy booth is analogous to other functional functional items an employee might require to perform his job duties such as a high speed computer, high speed copier/scanner, or television", the EPA letter said. Thus, the booth was a practical addition to the administrator's office and did not violate the specific appropriations law provision since it was not "an aesthetic improvement" contemplated by that measure, according to the agency.

Pruitt and those around him are under multiple investigations launched by government watchdogs and congressional committees.

After the meetings, several Democratic lawmakers raised concerns that a variety of Pruitt's actions are "unethical and potentially illegal".

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