Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is not having a good month.
With increasing controversies surrounding his job, a new report reveals that at least five EPA officials, four of them high-ranking, were either reassigned, demoted or requested new jobs after they questioned Pruitt’s notorious spending habits and management.
The employees' concerns included Pruitt’s lavish spending on office furniture and first-class travel. Pruitt also asked for additional security, which included a bullet-proof vehicle and a 20-person security detail, according to EPA employees.
Out of the five EPA officials, four were career-long EPA employees, whereas one was a Trump administration political appointee, Kevin Chmielewski, who was placed on administrative leave without pay, according to an insider.
An EPA official said he reported his agitation about Pruitt’s unethical behavior directly to the White House presidential personnel office.
EPA career officials Reginald E. Allen and Eric Weese were demoted to jobs of lesser influence, where they had limited contact with Pruitt.
John E. Reeder, another EPA official, was asked to find a new job and joined American University as a temporary “executive in residence.”
John C. Martin, a member of Pruitt’s security detail, was also fired after questioning the way Pruitt was handling his security team.
Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, a climate change skeptic like his boss, also asked Pruitt about his lavish spending. While he kept his job at EPA, Jackson is considering resigning.
All of these officials reportedly directly questioned Pruitt after he made spending decisions from taxpayer’s money that seemed over-board and unnecessary.
The five officials and Jackson declined to comment on why they were removed or displaced by the EPA or Pruitt’s alarming spending.
EPA officials also claim the standoff between Pruitt and other EPA officials affected the morale of the agency.
Christopher Zarba, a former career EPA employee, said the issues between Allen and Pruitt were well-known among the agency officials.
“Brilliant, a natural leader, an off-the-charts-talented guy. He had to push back on Pruitt on some of the trip and office modification expenses to keep everything legal, and we speculated he might have been removed for that reason,” said Zarba on Allen’s transfer.
Despite various claims against Pruitt and him being under the spotlight for all the wrong reason for a while now, President Donald Trump still considers Pruitt a “fantastic” choice for the job.
Talking to reporters recently, Trump gushed about the EPA administrator, “I think he’s done a fantastic job. I think he’s done an incredible job. He’s been very courageous. It hasn’t been easy, but I think he’s done a fantastic job.”
The praise kept coming, “You know, I just left coal and energy country. They love Scott Pruitt,” he said, highlighting Pruitt’s pro-coal policies. “They feel very strongly about Scott Pruitt. And they love Scott Pruitt.”
When asked about the mounting allegations against Pruitt, he said, “I have to look at them. I’ll make that determination but he’s a good man; he’s done a terrific job. But I’ll take a look at it,” the president said.
However, the White House’s stance on the controversy surrounding Pruitt is a little different.
“I can’t speak to the future of Scott Pruitt,” said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, mere hours before Trump sang praises for the EPA administrator.
"I can just talk about where we are now and that is that the White House is aware of these reports and we’re obviously looking into those,” Gidley added.
Considering the revolving door at the White House, what happens next is anyone's guess.
Thumbnail/Banner: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque