Senators question whether EPA security contract is conflict of interest

Senators question whether EPA security contract is conflict of interest

Two Democratic senators are questioning whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a security contract to a company linked to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's chief of security, in violation of ethics rules.

In a letter sent to Pruitt on Tuesday, Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax MORE (D-R.I.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperAmerica is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction FARA should apply to Confucius Institutes The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal MORE (D-Del.) say a contract awarded to Edwin Steinmetz Associates, a company owned by the vice president of technical surveillance countermeasures at Sequoia Security Group, may represent a conflict of interest.

Pruitt's head of security detail, Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, is a principal of the same security company, according to his LinkedIn page. 

"These facts raise questions about Mr. Perrotta’s compliance with EPA regulations and concerns that he may have used his position at the agency to influence the award of EPA contracts to a person or company in which he has a financial interest," the two senators said in their letter.

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They said Perrotta's business ties could violate a number of government ethics rules and asked the EPA to provide them with details proving that Perrotta's outside employment with his security company was in compliance with the law.

Edwin Steinmetz Associates was hired to conduct a security sweep for listening devices in Pruitt's office. The EPA paid the company $3,000 to sweep Pruitt's office for bugs. 

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox defended the expense in a statement Tuesday: “According to EPA’s Protective Service, security sweeps are common practice in government, as former EPA Administrators Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage Overnight Energy: Trump order to trim science panels sparks outrage | Greens ask watchdog to investigate Interior's records policies | EPA to allow use of pesticide harmful to bees MORE also had their office swept. We looked at a couple of different vendors and career administrative officials approved the same vendor that the Office of the Inspector General used and other offices within EPA.”