Agency's handling of Pruitt phone booth broke law - GAO

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The GAO report says Pruitt violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, which prohibits an agency from paying more than $5,000 to redecorate or furnish a presidential appointee's office without congressional approval, The Washington Post reported.

In this case, EPA principal general counsel Kevin Minoli said, the privacy booth wasn't created to "enhance the value of existing office space or to make it better".

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. Previous EPA chiefs did not use a secured phone booth in their office to run the agency.

The EPA spent more than $43,000 to install a "secure phone booth" in Pruitt's office previous year, according to agency documents obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project, a non-partisan and non-profit watchdog group.

The auditors did not make a determination on the propriety of the soundproof booth purchase, even saying that had EPA notified Congress there would have been no issue with the spending.

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It also states, "We conclude that EPA violated section 710 when it obligated $43,238.68 for the installation of a soundproof privacy booth without providing advance notice to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate". In February, he cited the "toxic environment" in politics and implying he was less likely to face threats in a first-class crowd.

Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, is also on the list to be interviewed, as are two young aides that the administrator brought with him from Oklahoma, where he previously served as attorney general.

Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, who requested the GAO review, said the finding was yet another example of the embattled EPA administrator flouting federal spending rules.

"If you sit first class, you're guaranteed to come into contact with everybody else on the plane". "The notion that I've got to fly first class because I don't want people to be mean to me-you need to go into another line of work if you don't want people to be mean to you".

Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., sent the letter a day after lawmakers detailed allegations by the EPA's former deputy chief of staff for operations, Kevin Chmielewski, who told congressional staff about wasteful spending, unethical behavior and retribution at the agency for staffers who questioned the activity.

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