GAO says EPA Violated Laws in Creating Privacy Booth for Pruitt’s Office

While some readers are weary of the growing number of stories about Scott Pruitt and his running of the EPA, the government has taken notice of his operations.

This week, the Government Accountability Office of the Environmental Protection Agency was out with a report stating that the EPA violated federal spending laws when it purchased a $43,000 soundproof privacy booth for Pruitt to make private phone calls in his office. It was the booth that led to many jokes about the 1960s TV show “Get Smart” and its ‘Cone of Silence’.

The claim was made in a letter sent by the GAO to Senate Democrats who requested the review of spending by the former Oklahoma Attorney General.

GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong concluded the EPA’s purchase of the special 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.

He said because the EPA used federal money in a manner prohibited by law, the agency also violated the Antideficiency Act and is legally obligated to report the violation to Congress.

At the EPA, spokeswoman Liz Bowman reacted and said the agency is addressing the GAO’s concern and will send a notification this week to Congress. The agency earlier had defended the special phone booth, saying it was needed so Pruitt could make secure phone calls with President Trump and other senior administration officials.

New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall had asked for the GAO review and called the finding another example of Pruitt flouting federal spending rules.

“An illegal privacy booth to conduct secret discussions with his polluter friends does nothing to help our health or environment,” Udall said Monday. “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. He has been a disaster, and it’s past time for him to go.”