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2 EPA aides leave amid Pruitt controversies

2 EPA aides leave amid Pruitt controversies
Posted at 10:44 AM, May 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-01 13:44:57-04

Two influential staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency are leaving the agency, CNN has learned.

The security chief for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and the leader of the agency's Superfund cleanup program are both departing, according to an internal email and an agency statement, respectively.

The exits come just days after Pruitt's management of the agency, including substantial spending on his personal security, travel, and office, came under scrutiny at back-to-back congressional hearings.

Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, the special agent in charge of the Pruitt security detail, announced his departure in a one-sentence email to colleagues on Tuesday morning.

"It has been a tremendous honor to serve as a special agent for the past 23 years and I wish you all a safe journey ahead as you move forward in both your professional and personal lives," Perrotta wrote.

The security team overseen by Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent, has ballooned under Pruitt. Expensive and elaborate practices, such as flying in first class airplane seats, have drawn the attention of watchdogs like the EPA's own inspector general.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, has indicated the House Oversight Committee, which he chairs, is interested in interviewing Perrotta about Pruitt's security and travel. Perrotta's predecessor was pushed aside after refusing to drive Pruitt around Washington using police lights and siren, three sources familiar with the situation told CNN.

The EPA has repeatedly defended the spending and security practices as necessary given an increased level of threats against Pruitt. But Senate Democrats say a whistleblower and internal documents cast doubt on the severity of the threats.

The EPA did not respond to CNN's request for comment on Perrotta's departure.

The other staffer leaving the EPA is Albert "Kell" Kelly, an Oklahoma business associate of Pruitt who was appointed to lead the Superfund cleanup program.

"Kell Kelly's service at EPA will be sorely missed," Pruitt said in a statement to CNN confirming the departure.

Kelly was a senior adviser to Pruitt whose role at EPA involved managing the program that cleans contaminated sites, such as dumping grounds and former industrial or mining facilities.

Pruitt appointed Kelly to the position after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, an arm of the federal government that oversees the banking industry, ended Kelly's banking career with a lifetime ban from the industry. The exact nature of his violations were not disclosed.

Kelly's former bank, Spiritbank, handled the mortgage for Pruitt's 2004 home purchase in a suburb of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The bank was also involved in the purchase of a minor league baseball team by Pruitt and business partners.

The New York Times reported that Kelly's bank also handled the mortgage on an Oklahoma City house Pruitt purchased through a shell company from a lobbyist. One of Pruitt's partners in the shell company also now holds a political appointment at the EPA.

Neither Perrotta nor Kelly announced the dates they plan to leave the agency.