3 top aides to embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt quit amid ethics investigations

Alex Edelman/Getty ImagesEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt
  • Three top aides to Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt are leaving their posts as scrutiny of Pruitt’s leadership intensifies.
  • Albert “Kell” Kelly, who was brought in to expedite toxic waste cleanups, resigned Tuesday amid criticism of his past work in banking in Oklahoma, where he was banned from the industry.
  • Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, Pruitt’s security chief, announced Monday that he will retire amid probes into Pruitt’s travel and security spending.
  • And Liz Bowman, the agency’s top communications staffer, resigned Monday as Pruitt faces at least 11 separate investigations of his spending on travel and security at agency.

Albert “Kell” Kelly, a top aide to Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who worked on toxic waste cleanups, resigned Tuesday amid criticism of his past work in banking in Oklahoma, where he was banned from the industry.

Kelly joins Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, Pruitt’s security chief, who announced Monday he will retire from his post as congressional scrutiny of Pruitt’s spending on travel and security – and Perotta’s role in the decision-making – intensifies.

And Liz Bowman, the EPA’s top communications staffer, announced her resignation on Monday, The Washington Examiner reported Thursday.

Bowman, who led the agency’s outreach to groups supportive of Pruitt’s deregulatory actions, said she’s leaving the EPA on good terms and will start a new job as director of communications for Sen. Joni Ernst, the Iowa Republican.

“What Liz brought to the table at EPA was good judgment, good management, good organisation. She speaks her mind. She might even spoken her mind to a fault. But I loved it. I am going to miss her,” Ryan Jackson, EPA chief of staff, told The Examiner.

Kelly, an old friend of Pruitt’s from their home state of Oklahoma, was fined $US125,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation before it banned him from banking entirely last year. The bank that Kelly ran, SpiritBank, loaned Pruitt money, including to purchase a home and partial ownership of a minor-league baseball team, The New York Times reported.

There is no evidence that any of the loans Pruitt received were connected to the settlement, and Pruitt told House lawmakers last week that he would “encourage” – but not compel – Kelly to release more details of the deal he reached with the FDIC to Congress.

“Kell Kelly’s service at EPA will be sorely missed. In just over a year he has made a tremendous impact on EPA’s Superfund program,” Pruitt said in a statement Tuesday.

Perotta, who ran Pruitt’s 20-person security team and often travelled with the administrator, was planning to retire in July, but moved up his departure date. Perotta is personally facing scrutiny for his recommendation that Pruitt hire a 24-hour security team three times the size of his predecessor’s, which has cost the government $US3 million over the last year.

Perotta also facilitated a $US3,000 security sweep of Pruitt’s office by colleague at his outside consulting group, and pushed for a bullet-proof desk for Pruitt’s office as well as a bullet-proof vehicle, and helped facilitate Pruitt’s regular first-class travel.

The former Secret Service agent is scheduled to meet with investigators from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. Perotta told ABC News that he planned to cooperate with the investigation (his retirement means the agency’s inspector general cannot mandate him to cooperate).

“All of this press is taking a toll on my family,” Perrotta, who’s worked at the EPA since 2004, told ABC on Tuesday. “I decided to move on, and it’s been an honour to serve.”

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