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EPA watchdog recommends agency recoup $124K for Pruitt's "excessive" travel costs

Scott Pruitt. Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

The watchdog for the Environmental Protection Agency recommended on Thursday that nearly $124,000 be recovered for inappropriate travel expenses by former agency chief Scott Pruitt.

Details: The Office of Inspector General's estimated findings come nearly a year after Pruitt resigned amid controversy over his spending, travel and relationships with lobbyists. Investigators concluded that 40 trips Pruitt either took or scheduled between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2017, cost taxpayers $985,037, allotted for Pruitt's security detail, and staffers' travel.

“Actions are needed to strengthen controls over the EPA’s travel and prevent fraud, waste and abuse,”
— The Inspector General’s office

The inspector general’s office is questioning $123,941 spent to fly Pruitt and his security detail in first- or business class, while his staff was required to fly coach. When traveling to Tulsa, Okla. — where Pruitt maintained a home while serving as a member of President Trump’s cabinet — his staff was occasionally required to cover their own travel expenses.

What they're saying: The EPA responded on Thursday, clarifying a long-standing policy of allowing travel other than coach class. The agency's general counsel issued an opinion determining that the acting controller “had the authority to grant first-class exceptions. Therefore, in evaluating the delegation EPA believes that the trips were authorized by an appropriate official, making cost recovery inappropriate."