The Slatest

Investigation Finds Former EPA Head Scott Pruitt Spent $124,000 on “Excessive” Flight Upgrades, Should Probably Pay It Back

Scott Pruitt walks during a picnic for military families on the South Lawn of the White House July 4, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Who me?
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

It’s been nearly a year since former Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt resigned his post for loving that sweet, sweet government expense account just a little too much, but thankfully he bobs back into the news every once in a while. The most recent reminder that Scott Pruitt likes to steal hotel towels and was once an air quote public servant came Thursday when the EPA inspector general suggested the agency consider trying to get a cool $124,000 back from the old boss that he frittered away on inappropriate travel perks while in office.

The IG said that Pruitt took 40 trips over a 10-month period in 2017 costing taxpayers $985,037 while on the job. While that’s not a problem per se, what is is that some of that cash was used inappropriately to scratch the agency head’s high-end itch. At issue, are a number of instances where Pruitt and staff flew either first or business class. The report cited multiple infractions, including: “improper granting of first/business-class exceptions,” “improper approval of lodging costs above per diem,” and “missing detailed support for trips with stops in Tulsa.” Of the 40 trips scheduled for Pruitt between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2017, 16 of those trips were either to Pruitt’s home in Tulsa, Oklahoma or included a stop there.

At one point, the head of Pruitt’s security detail Pasquale Perrotta sent a memo requesting that Pruitt be upgraded from that coach life for security reasons. Pruitt was often recognized and was subjected to, “at times, lashing out from passengers, which occurs while the Administrator is seated in coach with [his personal security detail] not easily accessible to him due to uncontrolled full flights,” Perrotta wrote. “We believe that the continued use of coach seats for the Administrator would endanger his life, and therefore respectfully ask that he be placed in either business or first class accommodations.” Endanger his life! In 14D on a Delta? We get it, you’re trying to do your boss a solid and write him a doctor’s note. But, unless Pruitt has a peanut allergy, that’s not a lot of faith in the work the good folks at TSA are putting in.

So how do we find our way out of this mess and make John Q. Taxpayer whole? The IG report suggests the EPA should consider trying to get its money back. It’s not without precedent to have government officials repay expenses that were considered unauthorized; in fact, it’s fairly routine. The still-Trump run EPA, however, doesn’t seem too interested in tracking Pruitt down, saying in a statement that it “believes that the trips were authorized by an appropriate official, making cost recovery inappropriate.”

That’s that then? We won’t have Scott Pruitt to kick around anymore? The former head of the EPA, an environmental agency, is now a consultant to coal companies. Don’t worry, he’ll be back. Somehow.