The Hill: EPA Ethics Official Didn’t Have Some Facts in Evaluating Pruitt’s Lease
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top ethics official had limited information when he ruled last week that Administrator Scott Pruitt’s condo rental last year was legal.
Kevin Minoli, a career EPA employee, wrote in an ethics opinion last week that Pruitt’s lease — $50 per day he slept there, renting from the wife of a lobbyist with energy industry clients — complied with federal ethics rules.
But in a new memo on Wednesday, Minoli clarified that his evaluation was based on the assumption that Pruitt followed the terms of the lease exactly.
“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,” Minoli wrote in the memo, obtained by the Campaign Legal Center and first reported by CNN.
The new memo came after Walter Shaub, who now runs the Campaign Legal Center’s government ethics program, asked Minoli various questions about the ethics opinion. Shaub had led the federal Office of Government Ethics from 2013 until his resignation last year.
“If it turns out Pruitt's daughter was staying in the other room, that's not covered by the ethics opinion because it's outside the scope of the lease,” Shaub told CNN. “It would raise a factual question as to whether the landlord knew and permitted his use of the second room, which would be a gift.”
Shaub and others have raised the possibility that the lobbying firm Williams & Jensen and its clients may have received preferential treatment due to Pruitt’s lease, an allegation that the EPA has denied. Vicki Hart, the landlord for the condo, is married to J. Steven Hart, chairman of the firm.