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Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency watchdog has found two former EPA employees were kept on the payroll by political appointees of former President Trump after their contracts were terminated, Politico first reported Saturday.

Why it matters: The EPA's Office of Inspector General found the agency's former chief of staff Ryan Jackson and former White House liaison Charles Muñoz had "made and used official time sheets and personnel forms that contained materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements," per the Washington Post.

  • Improper payments alleged to have been directed by Jackson and carried out by Muñoz cost the EPA $37,913.23.
  • The OIG also determined that Muñoz "received an improper raise and submitted 'fraudulent timesheets' that cost EPA almost $96,000," according to Politico.

Of note: Federal prosecutors have declined to press charges over the OIG's findings.

Driving the news: The March OIG report was released under a Freedom of Information Act request by Politico.

  • Both employees who'd had their contracts ended had "objected to the deletion of items from Pruitt's public calendar, including a dinner in Rome with a Vatican cardinal later charged with sexual misconduct," WashPost notes.

Details: The report found one employee, whose contract as scheduler for former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was terminated in August 2017, was told by Jackson that she would receive "severance pay" despite this not being allowed, per WashPost.

  • Jackson told investigators he "wanted a transition period" because he didn't think her ouster was fair, according to the report. "I wanted to be helpful to her," he added.
  • The other aide, who was forced out of his role as deputy chief of staff of operations in February 2018, continued receiving pay through April 2018 allegedly at the direction of Muñoz, according to the report, per the Post.
  • Jackson told investigators he wanted to help out while the second aide found work. The aide told WashPost "weeks and months went by where I was still receiving a paycheck."
  • Representatives for Jackson, Muñoz and the former Trump administration could not immediately be reached for comment.

Flashback: The scandals that led to Scott Pruitt's resignation

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 23, 2021 - Energy & Environment

White House moves against "super-pollutant" in climate fight

Photo: Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

The EPA is finalizing rules today that cut powerful greenhouse gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration, part of a wider new White House strategy to deter these "super-pollutants" and boost manufacturing of substitutes.

Why it matters: The EPA regulation is the U.S. part of a planned global phase-down of chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons. The global phaseout can prevent up 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100, the White House said.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's carbon emissions-cutting pledge faces tough climb

Image from the Rhodium Group study "Pathways to Paris." Courtesy of the Rhodium Group.

The verdict is in: President Biden's U.S. emissions-cutting pledge isn't a fantasy, but the path to meeting it is very difficult and relies on forces outside of White House control.

Driving the news: The Rhodium Group just released an analysis of policy combinations that could close the gap between the current U.S. trajectory and Biden's vow under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions in half by 2030.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Johnson & Johnson pulls the trigger on Texas talc gambit

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's official: Johnson & Johnson has invoked a Texas legal loophole in an attempt to protect the bulk of its corporate assets from claims that its baby powder caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

Why it matters: It's the biggest and boldest invocation yet of the so-called Texas two-step defense. But it's still not clear whether it's going to work.