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Former Pruitt aide alleges litany of wasteful spending, extravagant travel by EPA chief - http://travelporn.info | luxury travel sites

April 12, 2018 4:08 pm
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EPA chief Scott Pruitt listens to President Trump speak to the media before a meeting with his Cabinet this week. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

A former senior aide to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has detailed what he calls a long list of wasteful spending and unethical behavior on behalf of Pruitt to congressional investigators, according to a letter signed Thursday by Democrats in both houses of Congress.

Kevin Chmielewski, a former Trump campaign aide who until recently served as deputy chief of staff for operations to Pruitt, told congressional staffers that Pruitt routinely pushed for unjustified expenditures on his travel, lodging and changes to his office, and that he marginalized employees who questioned his directives.

The allegations are included in a letter to Pruitt sent Thursday by five Democrats in the House and Senate, including Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del).

EPA officials previously have dismissed Chmielewski as one of a group of “disgruntled” employees who were dismissed or reassigned. Chmielewski has said he was removed from his position and placed on administrative leave after refusing to approve inappropriate expenditures.

“We will respond to Members of Congress through the proper channel,” said EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox in a statement Thursday.

Many of Chmielewski’s assertions have previously been reported, but his allegations against Pruitt — which stretch on for several pages — offer a firsthand accounting of what he saw behind closed doors at EPA.

Chmielewski claims that Pruitt often chose travel destinations based on a desire to visit particular cities or countries rather than official business, according to the letter. He said Pruitt also directed staffers to book flights on Delta, even when it was “not the federal government’s contract carrier for the route,” in order to accrue more frequent flier miles. He also said Pruitt routinely asked his staff to “find reasons” for the administrator to travel to Oklahoma, so that he could then remain in his home state for long weekends, often at taxpayer expense.

In addition, Chmielewski claimed that Pruitt “frequently stayed in hotels that exceeded the allowable U.S. government per diem,” and that while planning trips to Italy and Australia — the latter trip was canceled — Pruitt refused to stay at hotels recommended by the U.S. Embassy, even though the hotels suggested by embassy officials “had law enforcement and other U.S. resources on site.”

A current EPA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak frankly, said that Pruitt had pushed to stay in a boutique hotel in Australia but not in Italy, as Chmielewski has told investigators.

Pruitt repeatedly opted to stay in Sofitel chain hotels both domestically and overseas, according to multiple aides, even when those costs exceeded the allowed government per diem.

Chmielewski also claims that Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, was excluded from scheduling meetings about the EPA leader’s travel after raising concerns about his expenditures, according to the letter.

Chmielewski allegations extend to a series of other questions about spending and management decisions for which Pruitt is facing scrutiny. He claims that the EPA administrator far exceeded the amount allowed on alterations to office, including refinishing a desk and purchasing another one and ordering a custom-built soundproof phone booth for $43,000.

He also asserts that Pruitt had a trusted aide, Millan Hupp, “act as a personal real estate representative,” and had Hupp look into a possible $100,000-per-month private jet lease, which ultimately did not happen. Chmielewski also claims that Pruitt was in favor of steep raises given to Hupp and another aide, despite the lack of White House approval.

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