Top EPA official: Pruitt’s condo rental met ethics rules

Top EPA official: Pruitt’s condo rental met ethics rules
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top ethics official said Friday that Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittZinke left some details off public calendar: report EPA watchdog faults ‘management weaknesses’ in Flint water crisis House completes first half of 2019 spending bills MORE’s lease of a Capitol Hill condo last year aligned with ethics rules.

In a memo dated Friday and distributed to reporters, Kevin Minoli, a career attorney and the EPA’s designated ethics official, said he reviewed the circumstances surrounding Pruitt’s lease and that it did not constitute a prohibited “gift” under federal regulations.

The condo near the Capitol building is co-owned by lobbyist Vicki Hart, whose husband, Steven Hart, represents energy companies, among other clients.

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The arrangement elicited significant criticism this week from Democrats, outside ethics experts and others who said Pruitt got a special deal from an industry lobbyist. He no longer lives there.

Minoli’s finding came after a day in which ABC News and other outlets broke news that Pruitt was paying $50 per day to live in the property, but only when he slept there; he could use other amenities in the condo; and his adult daughter lived with him for a period of time without Pruitt or the daughter paying more.

Despite all that, the lease was compliant.

“Market value for rental apartments is commonly thought of in terms of rental cost per month. Under the terms of the lease, if the space was utilized for one 30-day month, then the rental cost would be $1500, which is a reasonable market value,” Minoli wrote.

“The lease authorized use by the administrator and his immediate family, specifically including his spouse and children, and consistent with that provision of the lease his immediate family did stay there when they were in Washington, D.C.,” he continued.

“Entering into the lease was consistent with federal ethics regulations regarding gifts, and use of the property in accordance with the lease agreement did not constitute a gift as defined in those regulations.”

Justina Fugh, another ethics official at EPA, said Thursday that the lease was above-board.

But she told BuzzFeed News on Friday that she made that opinion before learning about Pruitt’s daughter living there, which could change her decision. 

“I don’t have any facts to know what the daughter did and didn't pay,” Fugh told BuzzFeed. “I don’t have any facts to know if she’s a dependent on his taxes,” she said, a key question in deciding whether her stay was proper.