Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s self-inflicted ethics scandals continue to spread and, on Monday, the Atlantic reported internal emails at the EPA showed Pruitt personally signed off on an unusual set of raises for staffers that has come under scrutiny by the public and the department’s inspector general. This comes after the already embattled EPA head told Fox News last Wednesday: “I didn’t know they got the pay raises until yesterday.”
Pruitt’s hiring practices have come under scrutiny after the White House refused to sign off on wage hikes for a pair of employees who were then given substantial raises anyway through a backdoor provision granted under Safe Drinking Water Act. A provision of the act allows the EPA administrator to hire up to 30 staffers without congressional or White House approval in order to allow rapid staffing in critical areas. According to the Atlantic, Pruitt signed off on the salary increases for senior aide Sarah Greenwalt and his director of scheduling, Millan Hupp.
From the Atlantic:
In mid-March, Sarah Greenwalt, senior counsel to the administrator, wrote to HR in an attempt to confirm that her pay raise of $56,765 was being processed. Greenwalt “definitively stated that Pruitt approves and was supportive of her getting a raise,” according to an administration official who has seen the email chain. A second administration official confirmed the exchange. The email “essentially says, ‘The administrator said that I should get this raise,’” the official told me. Both spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the private correspondence… Greenwalt and Hupp’s raises went into effect on April 1, according to HR documents obtained by The Atlantic.
Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, denied that the EPA head was involved in the nitty-gritty of the amount of the pay raises. It remains to be seen what impact the jerry-rigged raises will have on Pruitt’s status in the Trump administration, but the EPA administrator has been in the news an awful lot recently and none of it looks good.