- Two of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s top aides – both of whom had received large and controversial pay raises – are resigning this week.
- Sarah Greenwalt, Pruitt’s 30-year-old senior counsel, and Millan Hupp, the 26-year-old director of scheduling and advance, are the latest in a string of top staffers to leave the agency.
- Both aides received steep pay raises that were reportedly obtained through a legal loophole after the White House refused to approve them.
Two of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s top aides are resigning amid fresh controversies stemming from the administrator’s leadership.
Sarah Greenwalt, Pruitt’s 30-year-old senior counsel, and Millan Hupp, the agency’s 26-year-old director of scheduling and advance, are the latest in a string of top staffers to leave the EPA, The Atlantic and The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Hupp made headlines this week after reports emerged that she told congressional investigators that she spent months scouting a new DC apartment for Pruitt, scheduled his family vacations, and even looked into buying him a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel – all during work hours.
A top agency official told The Atlantic that Hupp is “tired of being thrown under the bus by Pruitt” and concerned about the amount of media attention she has received. Hupp’s last day will be Friday.
Hupp and Greenwalt, both part of a tightly-knit group of top aides Pruitt brought with him from Oklahoma, also found themselves at the center of controversy earlier this spring, after The Atlantic reported that the two received steep pay raises without White House approval. Greenwalt received a raise of over $US66,000, bringing her salary to $US164,200, and Hupp had her pay bumped from $US86,460 to $US114,590.
After the Presidential Personnel Office reportedly refused to sign off on the proposed pay hikes, the agency approved the raises through a backdoor provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act that allows the administrator to hire up to 30 employees without White House or congressional approval in areas of critical need.
According to internal emails reported on by The Atlantic on April 9, Greenwalt insisted that Pruitt personally sanctioned her raise.
Greenwalt “definitively stated that Pruitt approves and was supportive of her getting a raise,” an administration official who had seen the emails told The Atlantic.
In an April 9 statement, Jackson said Pruitt was not aware of the amount the staffers’ salaries were being raised by, nor was he aware of the process through which they were implemented. But Jackson did not say that Pruitt was unaware that the raises were being given.
“Administrator Pruitt had zero knowledge of the amount of the raises, nor the process by which they transpired,” Jackson said in his statement. “These kind of personnel actions are handled by myself, EPA’s HR officials and PPO.”
But if Pruitt was in fact unaware of the raises, he may have violated the law, as the administrator is required to approve all hiring and salary changes under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that Hupp’s sister, Sydney Hupp, who previously worked as a scheduler for Pruitt at the EPA, tried to organise a call between Pruitt and the president of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A to discuss Pruitt’s wife’s interest in opening a Chick-fil-A franchise.
The revelation generated new concerns that Pruitt has used his government position for personal gain.
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