Dems seek probe into allegations Pruitt altered calendars

Dems seek probe into allegations Pruitt altered calendars
© Greg Nash

Two House Democrats want the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) internal watchdog to investigate allegations 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 sought to keep certain events off his publicly released calendar.

In a Thursday letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins, Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) say Pruitt’s “secret” calendars, as described in a Tuesday CNN report, could violate the Federal Records Act.

“The proper maintenance of official federal records is set forth by the Federal Records Act,” the Democrats wrote.

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“Willful concealment or destruction of such records is a federal crime carrying penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.”

They asked Elkins to investigate to “protect public trust, and establish whether Administrator Scott Pruitt violated the Federal Records Act, and if so, determine what he concealed and why.”

Tia Elbaum, a spokeswoman for Elkins, said the office received the request and is reviewing it. 

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox denied the allegation that Pruitt has a "secret" calendar. He pointed to news stories showing Pruitt's frequent meetings with industry as examples of calendars that Pruitt didn't try to hide.

"Despite continued false accusations there are no secret calendars or schedules," Wilcox said in a statement to The Hill.

"EPA has released the meetings and events Administrator Pruitt has attended — which the media has already reported as meetings with industry — and to report anything else would be categorically false."

CNN reported this week that Pruitt’s staff kept a full secret calendar of his activities and then would “scrub” it before releasing entries to the public.

The scrubbed entries included a meeting in Italy with Cardinal George Pell, who has multiple accusations of sexual assault against him.

In another case, the calendar didn’t show a meeting Pruitt had with conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt pertaining to a Superfund site in Hewitt’s home county.

“We had at one point three different schedules. One of them was one that no one else saw except three or four of us,” Kevin Chmielewski, a former close staffer to Pruitt, told CNN. “It was a secret ... and they would decide what to nix from the public calendar.”

American Oversight, a watchdog group established by former Obama administration staffers, is asking a federal judge to force the EPA to certify in court that it released Pruitt’s full calendars.

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the group obtained calendars from Pruitt that left off some of the items CNN later found.

Pruitt is already being investigated in more than a dozen federal probes into allegations that he violated ethical or spending standards while serving as EPA administrator. Those investigations include Pruitt's reportedly buying a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, improperly asking his aides do personal tasks and renting an apartment from a lobbyist.

— Updated 12:43 p.m.