Press Releases

Carper, Whitehouse Call on EPA IG to Investigate Former Head of Pruitt’s Security Detail

Internal EPA communications show security chief, Pasquale Perrotta, intervened to implement Pruitt’s security directions, including the use of lights and sirens

May 16 2018

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) called on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General Arthur Elkins to investigate the self-employment of Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, during his time as the head of EPA Administrator Pruitt’s security detail and his involvement in EPA’s selection of his friend and business associate to conduct security sweeps of EPA offices seemingly without describing the potential conflicts of interest that the selection posed to other EPA officials.

The senators wrote, “We write to request you conduct an investigation into the circumstances of Pasquale ‘Nino’ Perrotta’s self-employment while at the Environmental Protection Agency, his involvement in the selection of Edwin Steinmetz to conduct a ‘sweep’ of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office, and the manner in which he and the Administrator worked together to advance the Administrator’s security requests. Mr. Perrotta appears to have been the individual that Administrator Pruitt transmitted most or all of his security demands to, and appears to have obliged the Administrator’s demands to spend exorbitantly on unjustified security measures.”

The senators also described interviews and a review of documents provided to their offices that appear to contradict Mr. Perrotta’s statements about his selection of the contractor used to perform the bug sweep, and note Mr. Perrotta’s involvement in many of the administrator’s questionable security decisions, writing, “For example, a February 27, 2017 email (attached) from Mr. Perrotta to others at EPA states that Administrator Pruitt ‘encourages the use’ of lights and sirens by his motorcade, a deviation from past EPA practice. It was also Mr. Perrotta who wrote the memo providing a blanket justification for Administrator Pruitt’s first-class flights.” 

In March, Senators Carper and Whitehouse wrote to Administrator Pruitt requesting all information regarding the role Mr. Perrotta played at EPA, citing concerns that Mr. Perrotta 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 due to his outside employment. In April, after receiving no response from EPA, Carper and Whitehouse wrote to EPA’s Designated Agency Ethics Official Kevin Minoli seeking more information on how EPA evaluated and monitored Mr. Perrotta’s authorization for maintaining outside employment. EPA’s ethics official has not responded to the senators’ request for information. 

The full text of the letter to Inspector General Elkins can be found below, and in PDF form here.

 

May 16, 2018

 

The Honorable Arthur A. Elkins, Jr.

Inspector General

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1301 Constitution Ave. NW, Rm 3102

Washington, DC 20460

 

Dear Mr. Elkins,

 

We write to request you conduct an investigation into the circumstances of Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta’s self-employment while at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), his involvement in the selection of Edwin Steinmetz to conduct a “sweep” of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office, and the manner in which he and the Administrator worked together to advance the Administrator’s security requests.  Mr. Perrotta appears to have been the individual that Administrator Pruitt transmitted most or all of his security demands to, and appears to have obliged the Administrator’s demands to spend exorbitantly on unjustified security measures. 

Attached are letters we have written to Administrator Pruitt and Designated Agency Ethics Official Kevin Minoli about some of these issues.  To date, we have not received a response to either letter.  We understand Mr. Perrotta has subsequently retired from EPA.  In our view, his retirement does not vitiate the need for your review because of the potential that other EPA processes and procedures that should have imposed oversight on Mr. Perrotta’s activities were either not followed or not effective. 

Specifically, Mr. Perrotta was authorized in 2013 by EPA to operate a security consulting business in addition to his EPA position.  EPA has argued this authorization cleared Mr. Perrotta to run Sequoia Security Group, despite the fact that the authorization (1) was limited to five years, so had expired; and, (2) required Mr. Perrotta to seek a reauthorization of his outside employment upon a change in the nature of the outside work or his position at EPA, which it appears he did not do.[1]  Furthermore, Mr. Perrotta appears to have directed a contract to his business associate at Sequoia Security Group, Mr. Steinmetz, without noting to any involved party the potential conflict of interest, according to emails reviewed by our staffs. 

On May 7, 2018, Mr. Perrotta made several allegations in an interview with The Daily Caller about the course of events leading to the selection of Mr. Steinmetz by EPA.[2]  He stated that at least two career officials:

“…were informed, advised of a vendor that I knew.  I explained to them that this vendor was someone that’s a subcontractor through my company, that was cleared through EPA many many years prior.  And the only reason that the vendor was selected that is in the news, Mr. Steinmetz, is because there was [sic] issues in the Agency in identifying a vendor, which to me was bizarre….  This is all out in the open, it was explained.”

Based on interviews conducted by our staff, and documents they have reviewed, we believe Mr. Perrotta’s version of events in this interview may be misleading.  Specifically, if your office were to review email correspondence between Mr. Perrotta and EPA security and facilities management staff, you would find the following:

 

  • Mr. Perrotta conveyed the Administrator’s interest in performing a bug sweep to others at EPA.
  • Career officials repeatedly tried to determine the official process for conducting the security sweep that was requested by the Administrator’s office.
  • Mr. Perrotta intervened in that process, circumventing the proper process for selecting a qualified contractor, including consultations with EPA's intelligence officials within the Office of Homeland Security and the United States Secret Service.
  • Mr. Perrotta provided Mr. Steinmetz’s name as someone able to conduct the security sweep without noting his own business relationship with Mr. Steinmetz.
  • Mr. Perrotta was involved in scheduling Mr. Steinmetz’s sweep and may have directed the use of an EPA purchase card to pay for it.  
  • On March 14, 2017, eleven days after the security sweep had been conducted, career officials raised concerns that the purchase of services from Mr. Steinmetz had not been properly approved through the EPA’s process and that the charge to EPA had not been properly authorized.

 

Contrary to Mr. Perrotta’s claims, it is far from clear that this was all “out in the open.”  We believe these communications show Mr. Perrotta was far more involved in the events surrounding the Steinmetz sweep than he claims, that the “issues” related to selecting a vendor were career officials trying to follow proper EPA procedures, and that EPA funds may have been spent in violation of EPA contracting policy.  Even after Mr. Perrotta’s retirement, one EPA employee intervening in a contracting process to steer business to an associate indicates a breakdown in agency procedures that should be addressed.  It could also suggest a violation of 18 U.S.C. 208, and also casts into question EPA’s procedures for monitoring employee compliance with 5 C.F.R. 6401.103.[3] 

In addition to the issues raised in our past correspondence, EPA officials with whom our offices have spoken and documents our staffs have reviewed corroborate media reports that Mr. Perrotta was deeply involved in many of the security-related decisions that your office is now reviewing.  He has correctly been described as having clashed with other EPA officials who questioned Administrator Pruitt’s spending, and as playing “ a far larger role at the E.P.A. [than leading Pruitt’s security detail], offering security justifications for management, personnel and spending decisions.” [4]   For example, a February 27, 2017 email (attached) from Mr. Perrotta to others at EPA states that Administrator Pruitt “encourages the use” of lights and sirens by his motorcade, a deviation from past EPA practice.  It was also Mr. Perrotta who wrote the memo providing a blanket justification for Administrator Pruitt’s first-class flights.[5] 

Your May 14, 2018, correspondence[6] to us notes that you have an ongoing investigation related to Mr. Perrotta that stems from an anonymous complaint about him.  We expect that your review of the Administrator’s security spending will give extra scrutiny to decisions in which Mr. Perrotta was involved.  Thank you for reviewing this request.

 

###



[1] After initial reporting about Perrotta’s five-year old waiver, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox reportedly stated that Perrotta had received an extension on January 25, 2018.  http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/384760-epa-security-chief-worked-for-tabloid-owner-linked-to-trump-report.  While EPA provided the 2013 waiver to the media, to our knowledge it has not made public the extension. 

[2] The Daily Caller, “EXCLUSIVE: Scott Pruitt’s Head Bodyguard Takes On The ‘False Dirty Laundry’ Being Spread About EPA,” May 7,2017  available online at http://amp.dailycaller.com/2018/05/07/exclusive-epa-scott-pruitt-body-guard-nino-perrotta-false-dirty-laundry/

[3] Perrotta’s violation of EPA’s outside employment rules may not have been limited to Sequoia Security Group.  At least two of Mr. Perrotta’s EPA colleagues have told our staff that Mr. Perrotta was also authorized to operate a construction business in the past, and that he frequently conducted personal business related to this company on EPA time to a point where his managers may have formally recorded or conveyed their concerns.

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/12/climate/epa-scott-pruitt-pasquale-perrotta.html

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/05/07/heres-the-epa-memo-that-justified-scott-pruitts-first-class-travel/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a77c683e2408

[6] https://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/IG%20Final%20To%20Carper_05-14-18.pdf