$43000 soundproof booth for EPA chief Pruitt violated law -US GAO

Gage Skidmore  Flickr

Gage Skidmore Flickr

The EPA was required to tell Congress before it purchased the phone booth, exceeding the $5,000 limit on decorating and furnishing Pruitt's office, but didn't. "Further, because EPA obligated appropriated funds in a manner specifically prohibited by law, we conclude that EPA violated the Antideficiency Act".

In his Friday letter, Gowdy gave EPA a deadline of April 27 to provide the requested documents and contact his committee staff to schedule the EPA aides' interviews. "Scott Pruitt is behaving like swamp emperor rather than EPA administrator - he has shown a shocking lack of regard for public health and safety, ethics and fairness". The law allows for criminal prosecution if an agency staffer knowingly violated the statute, but that seems highly unlikely.

"The Anti-Deficiency Act is a criminal statute, but as a practical matter, it has never been used to prosecute anyone in a situation like this", Clark Pettig, a spokesman for the watchdog group American Oversight, told HuffPost by email.

Gowdy's letter was sent one day after lawmakers heard details from the EPA's former deputy chief of staff for operations, Kevin Chmielewski, who said those who questioned Pruitt's unethical behavior were retaliated against. In a statement, Sen.

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"You need to go into another line of work if you don't want people to be mean to you", the South Carolina Republican quipped.

The phone booth first attracted criticism from Democrats and spending watchdogs after The Washington Post reported on its construction last September.

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GAO noted in its report that the EPA maintained that the installation of the booth was a necessary expense, a point which GAO did not argue.

EPA has said previously that Pruitt needed the privacy booth to make secure phone calls with President Donald Trump and other senior administration officials without fear of eavesdropping.

"These are operated by EPA sub-organizations and are located three floors away from the Administrator's office", the report states.

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