Former EPA head Scott Pruitt and his staff spent $124,000 on unnecessary first and business class travel during his time in the Trump administration, according to new information unearthed by the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General and reported by NBC.
Pruitt has previously said he needed to fly first class to avoid “unpleasant interactions with other travelers.” Sucks to be a villain who everyone hates, I guess!
According to the OIG, half of the first and business class trips Pruitt and his staff took were to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Pruitt lives. Six of the 40 trips examined by the OIG were cancelled, but even those cancelled trips cost the agency money. The total cost of all the trips was $985,037, though only $124,000 was found to have been spent improperly.
Pruitt generated a huge amount of controversy in his brief time as head of the EPA. Most of his scandals regarded blatant misuse of funds, like spending $3,000 on stationary items for his office, sitting in expensive seats at a Kentucky basketball game, his love of Ritz-Carlton lotion, and the fact that he lived for cheap in a condo co-owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist. Just regular stuff.
His actual leadership of the EPA was also a disaster, to put it lightly.
The OIG report found that two thirds of the trips taken by Pruitt were in first class. The inspectors found that Pruitt failed to comply with the agency’s policies and federal travel regulations. NBC writes that Pruitt’s violations include “improper approval of expensive lodging costs, inaccurate and incomplete international trip reports and not justifying the use of noncontract air carriers.”
It wasn’t just airfare. Pruitt also sometimes paid exorbitant rates for other travel expenses, like hotels.
In one instance, Pruitt and his accompanying personal security detail agent were each charged $669 for a night at the Cassa Hotel in New York City — more than double the agency’s per diem hotel rate of $301. Other security officers at the same hotel that night were only charged $389.
“If the agency’s internal controls over travel aren’t strengthened, abuses may continue to occur at great cost to EPA programs and taxpayers,” Deputy Inspector General Charles Sheehan said in a statement.
The OIG recommended that the EPA’s chief financial officer should determine whether Pruitt will be forced to pay back the agency for the improper spending.
“Let’s hope the federal government sends Scott Pruitt the bill for his clueless self-indulgence,” Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project, told NBC. “Mr. Pruitt enjoyed luxury travel while proposing to eliminate nearly a third of EPA’s workforce.”