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Government Watchdog Says EPA Broke Law With Pruitt Phone Booth

Government Watchdog Says EPA Broke Law With Pruitt Phone Booth

Between the EPA's inspector general and the Government Accountability Office, Pruitt faces at least five inquiries into his actions.

The G.A.O. said it was not taking a position on whether or not the installation of the privacy booth was necessary, but was focusing only on whether the agency violated the Antideficiency Act, which is created to prevent the spending of money that has not been budgeted. The only question, therefore, was whether the booth installation met the definition of using funds to "furnish, redecorate, purchase furniture for or make improvements for" the administrator's office.

The privacy booth, which Pruitt had told lawmakers in a hearing was needed to conduct agency business, was built in a spot of a former storage closet in the administrator's office.

ABC News has reached out to the EPA for a response. The agency paid $23,000 for the phone booth and another $25,000 install a drop ceiling, remove closed-circuit television equipment and pour more concrete around the booth, according to agency contracts.

"We draw no conclusions regarding whether the installation of the privacy booth was the only, or the best, way for EPA to provide a secure telephone line for the administrator", GAO said.

EPA representatives said they were cooperating with the request.




Gowdy added that he would be "shocked" if many members of the general public even knew who Pruitt was, but that, as a government official, Pruitt should be prepared to take criticism from the public. "He must fire him immediately", said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

But Barrasso said in a statement after the GAO's decision that Pruitt's agency must give a "full public accounting" on the spending on the booth and explain why the agency thinks it was complying with the law.

"Because EPA did not comply with the notification requirement, the funds were not legally available at the time EPA incurred the obligation", the GAO found. "EPA should report its Antideficiency Act violation as required by law".

While the agency did turn over documents last month detailing almost $68,000 in previously undisclosed travel costs for Pruitt during the seven months leading up to February, Gowdy said EPA officials have failed to produce the security waivers that Pruitt used to justify his purchase of premium tickets at taxpayer expense.

EPA in the past has run up against GAO legal opinions.


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