For Immediate Release:
May 27, 2022
U.S. Special Counsel Findings Vindicate Government Accountability Project Client Kevin Chmielewski, Whose Whistleblowing Exposed Scott Pruitt’s Corruption
WASHINGTON – Scott Pruitt, former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and current candidate for the United States Senate, resigned from his position in July 2018 after a flurry of whistleblower disclosures, media coverage, and federal and Congressional investigations scrutinized a plethora of allegations detailing his abuses of authority and violations of public trust.
Today, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) closed its investigation into whistleblower disclosures related to the former Administrator’s alleged wrongdoing during his time at the EPA, and for the first time publicly released Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner’s letter to President Biden, the EPA’s report to OSC, the whistleblower’s comments on the EPA’s report, and OSC’s referral letter to the EPA.
Government Accountability Project represents Kevin Chmielewski, one of four EPA employees who made disclosures to the OSC in 2018 alleging that Pruitt engaged in improper and excessive spending of agency funds on travel and security, used his official position for his personal benefit and the benefit of EPA staff that he favored, and endangered public safety. Additionally, the complaints claimed that the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) improperly assumed EPA program operating responsibilities including protective intelligence and counterintelligence functions.
The investigations by the EPA, EPA OIG, and Government Accountability Office (GAO) substantiated most of the whistleblowers’ allegations, finding Pruitt and the EPA were responsible for wrongdoing.
The following whistleblower claims were substantiated:
- Former EPA Administrator Pruitt and his staff improperly and excessively spent $123,942 on travel in violation of the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) and the EPA’s own policies.
- The EPA spent excessively and improperly on security in violation of the Antideficiency Act (ADA) and section 710 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2017.
- The extravagant furnishing of Pruitt’s office and the soundproof privacy booth installed for him incurred $52,407.09-worth of spending that violated the ADA and Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2017.
- Without explicitly substantiating such actions as improper, the OIG did find that the EPA significantly increased the salaries of the staff identified by the whistleblowers between 25.1 and 72.3 percent in a short period, such that the EPA subsequently lowered their salaries, which Government Accountability Project considers to be validation.
- Pruitt endangered public health and safety by directing his Protective Service Detail (PSD) to use emergency lights and sirens and drive at excessive speeds in non-emergency situations and wrongfully removed a PSD member from his position after he refused to violate the rules.
- The EPA OIG and Office of Homeland Security’s jurisdiction over intelligence and related operations overlapped and conflicted.
- Pruitt’s PSD was unjustifiably increased from $1.6 million to $3.6 million.
Other allegations were not substantiated because of a lack of conclusion—for example, the OIG discontinued certain investigations of accused wrongdoers once the individual retired or resigned.
Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner’s letter to President Biden acknowledged the concerns raised by Kevin Chmielewski and his attorneys at Government Accountability Project in their public comments and summarized how OSC echoed and worked to address many of them following the EPA’s initial report, which OSC found was insufficient. Special Counsel Kerner also expressed “disappointment and frustration” that the OIG’s recommendations to the EPA took three years to resolve.
Samantha Feinstein, International Director at Government Accountability Project and one of the attorneys representing Kevin Chmielewski stated:
“We cannot forget that the EPA whistleblowers were retaliated against for telling the truth. This vindication comes four years after their initial disclosures in 2018, and we need to look at where we are now. The EPA never made it right for the whistleblowers they unjustly punished. In fact, they continue to make Kevin Chmielewski’s life hell. That’s their choice, but it’s an ironic one coming from the same agency whose report contains findings of significant wrongdoing, brought to light thanks to the four courageous whistleblowers, and that lead to necessary corrective actions to help prevent history from repeating itself so the EPA can accomplish its mission. Kevin sacrificed his career to restore good government, but the EPA shows no signs of stopping their mission to destroy Kevin for reporting the unequivocal truth.”
Contact: Andrew Harman, Communications Director
Phone: (202) 926-3304
Government Accountability Project
Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.