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Fri Apr 6, 2018, 02:01 AM

EPA Ethics Official Backtracks on Approval of Pruitt Rental Agreement

EPA Ethics Official Backtracks on Approval of Pruitt Rental Agreement

By ERICH WAGNER. http://www.govexec.com

The career ethics official who initially cleared Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s $50-per-night rental agreement for a room in a Capitol Hill two-bedroom condo owned by lobbyists appeared to backtrack on that approval Wednesday, saying it was based on the text of the lease, not how the property was actually used.

Kevin Minoli, EPA’s principal deputy general counsel and the agency’s designated ethics official, issued a new memo explaining the rationale for his original verdict on the lease. In it, he noted finding a number of Airbnb listings in the vicinity of the Capitol Hill apartment for single rooms in the neighborhood of $55 per night. But he said his decision was based on the text of the rental agreement with health care lobbyist Vicki Hart, not necessarily the reality of Pruitt’s tenure at the residence.

“The review addressed the terms of the lease as they were written in the lease agreement only,” Minoli wrote. “Some have raised questions whether the actual use of the space was consistent with the terms of the lease. Evaluating those questions would have required factual information that was not before us and the review does not address those questions.”

Additionally, Minoli said his analysis did not take into consideration whether Pruitt provided favorable treatment to Vicki Hart’s husband, Steven Hart, as a result of the rental. Steven Hart is chairman of Williams and Jensen, a lobbying firm with a number of clients who fall under the EPA’s jurisdiction.

“The review addressed those parts of the federal ethics regulations that regard gifts, but was not intended to and did not address other portions of the federal ethics regulations such as the impartiality rule,” Minoli wrote. “It is important to note that the federal ethics regulations regarding impartiality apply regardless of whether something involves receiving a prohibited gift.”


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