Three Democratic senators want an investigation into whether Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt broke the law when he had a close aide shop for apartments for him.
The demand for a probe comes after Pruitt told a Senate hearing this month that Millan Hupp, his scheduler, conducted the apartment hunt during non-work hours, but Pruitt did not pay her.
Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) argue in a letter Thursday to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins that Hupp’s apartment hunt may constitute an illegal gift to Pruitt.
“There are several regulations designed to prevent the misuse of taxpayer funds and to prevent a supervisor from misusing the time of or accepting an improper gift from a subordinate employee, whose salary is paid by American taxpayers,” the senators wrote.
They also suspected that Hupp used some work hours for the apartment search, which would also violate regulations.
Tia Elbaum, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Inspector General, said the office had received the letter and would review it.
Hupp’s apartment hunting work is one piece of a deluge of scandals surrounding Pruitt in recent months regarding ethics, spending and other matters.
The Washington Post reported last month that Hupp contacted a real estate firm and a landlord last year to arrange visits to properties for rent in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Hupp has been at the center of another Pruitt controversy. The EPA gave her a raise of about a third, to $114,590, earlier this year using a special authority after the White House rejected Pruitt’s request for a raise.
Pruitt has maintained that he knew about the raise and one to another close aide but did not know that his Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson would go around the White House to do it. He reversed both raises.
Elkins’s office is also looking into the the issue of the raises.
Hupp worked for Pruitt when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general and was among a group of aides he brought to Washington.
Pruitt told senators that Hupp was a close friend to him and his wife and her raise had nothing to do with the apartment hunt.
“The individual that you’re referring to is a longtime friend of my wife and myself,” he said.
“To link any type of review on a pay increase is just simply not substantiated. It’s just not related at all.”
BY TIMOTHY CAMA – 05/31/18