The “Golden Padlock” award has been given to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt for his record on transparency.
With tongue in cheek, the journalism group Investigative Reporters and Editors recognized Pruitt over the weekend during its annual conference held in Phoenix, Arizona.
The group did so as a means of emphasizing Pruitt’s record on keeping public records secret and to remove information from the EPA website.
“Judges were impressed with the breadth and scope of Pruitt’s information suppression techniques around vital matters of public interest,” said Toronto Star reporter Robert Cribb, head of the group’s Golden Padlock committee. “It is a powerful expression of excellence in the principles of government secrecy that the Golden Padlock was created to honor.”
Pruitt was asked to attend so he could receive the award in person but IRE received no response from him. The award covered not just Pruitt’s short record as EPA administrator but his time as Oklahoma Attorney General.
When Pruitt was AG in 2015, the Center for Media and Democracy made nine open records requests concerning his correspondence with 29 fossil fuel companies. Eventually, the Center filed suit and an Oklahoma judge ordered the Attorney General to provide the documents. Judge Aletica Haynes Timmons called it an “abject failure” by Pruitt’s office to provide the sought-after material.
Since Pruitt was picked by President Trump to be administrator of the EPA, he has changed the administration’s website including the removal of references to climate change.
In announcing its award for Pruitt, IRE said he was “helping lead a Trump administration effort to remove information from public websites.”
IRE chose Pruitt over four others including a mayor who tried to hide records in a bribery scandal by releasing more than a million documents.
“Too many government officials forget that they are paid by the public and that they work for the public,” said IRE Executive Director Doug Haddix. “The Golden Padlock finalists are among the most egregious examples. Unfortunately, they have a lot of company with other officials across the country who fail the public by working in secrecy.”