Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is now investigating Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, had some harsh words for Pruitt's controversial travel habits.
The Government Accountability Office said the EPA violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, which prohibits an agency from obligating more than $5,000 in federal funds to furnish, redecorate or make improvements in the office of a presidential appointee without first notifying appropriations committees in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. 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.
The privacy booth cost $24,570, including delivery and assembly, according to the GAO.
"EPA is addressing GAO's concern, with regard to Congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week", said Liz Bowman, an EPA spokeswoman.
In an eight-page letter to lawmakers, Thomas H. Armstrong, the G.A.O.'s general counsel, said the agency did not send advance notice to Congress when it paid $43,238.68 from its Environmental Programs and Management budget to pay for the installation of the soundproof booth. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Still, the EPA swears that Pruitt's lavish spending is no big deal.
Chmielewski also claims that the EPA administrator far exceeded the amount allowed on alterations to office, including refinishing a desk and purchasing another one and ordering a custom-built soundproof phone booth for $43,000. "Cabinet-level officials need to have access to secure communications (systems)". The privacy booth is among several unusual security precautions taken by Pruitt that are now under scrutiny. The EPA could, however, face administrative penalties under the Antideficiency Act. Federal investigators did not opine on whether Pruitt needed such a booth.