Ethics Body Flags $50-a-Night Condo Deal for Ex-EPA Chief

As head of the Environmental Protection Agency at the time, Scott Pruitt appeared on May 16, 2018, before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Calling it unclear whether former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt’s $50-per-day rental of Capitol Hill apartment was a legitimate gift or an improper reward, a federal ethics watchdog refused Tuesday to certify the erstwhile administrator’s financial-disclosure forms.

David Apol, the general counsel for the Office of Government Ethics, said in a statement this morning that the department was unable to determine whether the gift Pruitt received from the wife of a well known Washington lobbyist, J. Steven Hart, was “reportable” because “the inquiry into the matter was closed without resolution.”

“Therefore, the Office of Government Ethics declines to certify,” Apol said. 

Pruitt resigned in July 2018 after allegations about his excessive spending and other abuses of power at the agency ramped up. One of the alleged favors Pruitt received was an unheard-of nightly rate for a luxury condo in a prime Capitol Hill location. Pruitt’s daughter, a White House summer intern, also stayed at the apartment at no additional cost.

The offer for the condo came by way of the wife of J. Steven Hart, then-chairman of Washington lobbying firm Williams & Jensen. When pressed by lawmakers and reporters alike last year, Pruitt contended the condo was a proper business arrangement.

Last November, acting EPA Inspector General Charles Sheehan issued a report to Congress saying it would close the probe into Pruitt’s sweetheart deal because Pruitt resigned before ever being interviewed by investigators.

The EPA did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

“For that reason, the OIG deemed that the result of the investigation was inconclusive and the case will be closed,” Sheehan wrote to Congress last year.

Pruitt is not the first member of the Trump administration to have his financial disclosure report hang in limbo due to questions over potential ethics violations: Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ report was also declined last year after auditors caught an inaccurate accounting of the secretary’s holdings in BankUnited stock.

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