EPA officials, including Pruitt himself, have consistently said the administrator needs a secure area to talk to White House officials and others in the administration. The EPA twisted an obscure provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act that allows for hiring flexibility at the agency to jam through the raises.
In a Monday report, the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) concluded, based on documents provided to investigators by the agency, that Ryan Jackson signed off on the five-figure raises, but indicated that Pruitt authorized them.
At least four members of Congress, including Senator Tom Udall (D, New Mexico), accused Pruitt of blatantly abusing his position to enjoy unnecessary perks at his office.
In a so-called "management alert", EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. said his staff had reviewed personnel documents for six employees who were hired or had received raises under a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act since Pruitt came to the agency past year.
"The GAO letter "recognized the ... need for employees to have access to a secure telephone line" when handling sensitive information", EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in an email. But his chief of staff appears to have signed the forms "for Scott Pruitt", suggesting that he was acting with explicit or implicit permission.
EPA also told the GAO the booth "not only enables the administrator to make and receive phone calls to discuss sensitive information, but it also enables him to use this area to make and receive classified telephone calls (up to the top secret level) for the goal of conducting agency business".
GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong determined that EPA's purchase of the booth violated federal law prohibiting agencies from spending more than $5,000 for redecorating, furnishings or other improvements to the offices of presidential appointees without informing Congress. However, " The Associated Press has identified a few of them as aides to Pruitt whom he brought with him from Oklahoma, in which he functioned as the attorney common of their state.
Pruitt and those around him are under multiple investigations launched by government watchdogs and congressional committees. Scheduling director Millian Hupp, 26, saw her wages jump to $114,590, using raises totaling greater than $48,000 - a 72.3 percent in her authentic reparation.
In an unusual management alert issued Monday, EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins said his staff had reviewed personnel documents for six employees who were hired or had received raises under the Safe Drinking Water Act since Pruitt came to the agency a year ago.
The new reports come as the White House seeks to shake off persistent criticism by lawmakers of ethical lapses and wasteful spending by Trump's senior officials - something that has helped fuel a high rate of turnover. "EPA must give a full public accounting of this expenditure and explain why the agency thinks it was complying with the law".
In an April 4 interview with Fox News, Pruitt claimed he wasn't sure whether the person who authorized the raise was a career EPA employee or a political appointee. "Like maybe a monk".