Two Top Pruitt Aides Leave EPA Amid Scrutiny on Ethics, Spending

(Bloomberg) -- Two top aides are leaving the Environmental Protection Agency amid intensifying scrutiny of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s spending and travel.

The departures include Albert "Kell" Kelly, the top EPA adviser on Superfund cleanups, and former Secret Service agent Pasquale "Nino” Perrotta, who led Pruitt’s security detail. Their exit follows the resignation of longtime Pruitt ally Samantha Dravis last month.

Even as Kelly visited contaminated Superfund sites across the country and pushed for swifter cleanups, he was dogged by his history in the banking sector. Kelly, a former chairman of Oklahoma-based SpiritBank, was banned from banking and fined $125,000 last year by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation under an agreement in which he neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing. Kelly has said the action stemmed from a single transaction in 2010.

Kelly has made "a tremendous impact on EPA’s Superfund program," Pruitt said in an emailed statement, noting Kelly’s chairmanship of a Superfund Task Force that made recommendations for expediting cleanups and paring their costs.

"Kell has made a point to visit dozens of Superfund sites across the country and has met directly with impacted citizens, community groups and responsible parties," Pruitt said.

Perrotta is retiring from his job as the lead agent in charge of Pruitt’s protective detail, after serving four administrators at the EPA.

A former Secret Service agent who used to investigate loan sharks and mobsters, Perrotta is at the center of a series of controversial security moves at the EPA, including the decision to protect Pruitt around the clock, install biometric locks at the agency, sweep the administrator’s office for surveillance devices and install a $43,000 soundproof phone booth there.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is set to conduct a transcribed interview of Perrotta on Wednesday, part of the panel’s probe into spending, travel and Pruitt’s unorthodox rental of a Capitol Hill condominium.

Democratic senators also have questioned whether Perrotta used his position at the agency to influence the awarding of an EPA contract to one of his business partners.

Democratic senators also have questioned whether Perrotta used his position at the agency to influence the awarding of an EPA contract to one of his business partners. At issue is a contract Edwin Steinmetz Associates secured to search Pruitt’s office for surveillance devices. Steinmetz is the vice president of technical surveillance countermeasures at Perrotta’s Maryland-based consulting firm.

Perrotta had been planning to retire but he is leaving earlier than expected; his self-published memoir "Dual Mission" notes that his time as a federal agent "will soon be over."

Pruitt praised Perrotta for "selflessly" serving the American people for nearly a quarter century. "His hard work and dedication will be missed by all those who worked with him. I want to thank him for his service and wish him the very best in retirement," Pruitt said in an emailed statement.

Pruitt, 49, has drawn fire -- and at least 10 formal investigations -- for frequent travel to his home state of Oklahoma, questionable spending decisions at the EPA, raises for two top aides over White House objections and allegations that some employees were sidelined after questioning his decisions.

"The exodus of Pruitt’s closest aides shows just how toxic his reign at EPA has become,” said Representative Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia. "The EPA needs new leadership from public servants committed to its mission of protecting the environment and putting Americans’ public health first."

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