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 WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Feinstein 'surprised and taken aback' by suggestion she's not up for Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Murky TikTok deal raises questions about China's role | Twitter investigating automated image previews over apparent algorithmic bias | House approves bill making hacking federal voting systems a crime MORE (D-R.I.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThe conservative case for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons Democrat asks for probe of EPA's use of politically appointed lawyers Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report 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) McCarthyFormer EPA chiefs endorse Biden, criticize agency direction under Trump OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Energy Department proposes showerhead standards rollback after Trump complaints | Interior memo scaling back bird protections is 'contrary to law,' court rules | Former EPA chiefs call for agency 'reset' Former EPA chiefs call for agency 'reset' 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.”