Scott Pruitt’s unusual hiring habits came under greater scrutiny on Thursday. Senators Tom Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse wrote to the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency, calling for a deeper probe of Scott Pruitt’s use of a special hiring authority granted to him by the Safe Drinking Water Act.
In the letter, Carper and Whitehouse—top Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee—reference Pruitt’s use of the law to circumvent the White House last month and grant substantial pay raises to two of his favored aides, as we first reported.
The Safe Drinking Water Act allows the EPA administrator to appoint up to 30 staffers without White House or Senate confirmation. It is normally used to hire experts and other specialists into custom-made roles in the agency. The senators are now urging the watchdog to investigate Pruitt’s potential abuse of that privilege.
“A determination of whether the Administrator and/or his staff has used this process to provide raises to favored staff is central to achieve this report’s expected goal, ‘to strengthen agency policies and procedures related to filling administratively determined positions,’” they wrote.
On Tuesday, we reported that Pruitt had requested raises of $56,765 and $28,130 for Millan Hupp and Sarah Greenwalt, respectively. The White House turned him down. Pruitt then “reappointed” both women under the SDWA—despite counsel from his top political aides that the decision, if made public, could be damaging.