WASHINGTON (CN) – Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s top security official abruptly resigned Tuesday ahead of his scheduled questioning before a congressional panel. Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta was one of two top Pruitt aides to leave the agency amid a series of federal ethics inquiries.
The other was Albert Kelly, a former Oklahoma banker, who until Tuesday ran the EPA’s Superfund program.
Perrotta is scheduled to appear Wednesday for an with staffers of the House Oversight Committee. Aides to the committee said his resignation was not expected to affect his appearance.
The committee is investigating Pruitt’s costly 24 hour security detail, a sweetheart condo lease he received from the wife of an energy industry lobbyist, taxpayer funded first class airfare and a series of pay raises granted to the administrator’s top aides.
The two departures come at a tumultuous time for the agency. Last week, Pruitt himself took a lambasting from members of two congressional panels, many of whom called for the embattled administrator to step down after what they described as a series of ethical and management lapses.
On Tuesday, “Nino” Perrotta said the pressure of the media spotlight led him to resign.
“All of this press is taking a toll on my family,” Perrotta said in a statement. “I decided to move on and it’s been honor to serve.”
Perrotta said he submitted his resignation to the EPA on Monday. According to an April 7 report by the Associated Press, Perrotta was responsible for orchestrating Pruitt’s security and travel requests.
Perrotta told ABC News he would “fully cooperate” and answer any questions members of the oversight committee will ask him Wednesday.
A former Secret Service agent, Perrotta was one of the key investigators into the criminal exploits of Mafia boss John Gotti during the 1990s.
According to a report in Politico based on interviews with several current and former EPA officials, Perrotta was also directly responsible for indulging Pruitt’s requests for a 19-person security team, a custom SUV, a sweep of his office for surveillance bugs and a $43,000 soundproof booth for his office.
All of the expenditures were considered illegal according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. Pruitt contested the illegality of his purchases during his hearing with lawmakers last week.
EPA officials, including Ron Slotkin who recently retired from the EPA’s multimedia office have reported Perrotta acted as a type of bouncer for Pruitt, allowing only certain EPA employees to enter rooms or hallways near the administrator’s office.
Kelly, who also announced his resignation Tuesday, the former chairman of the Oklahoma-based Spirit Bank, was banned from the banking industry for life last year.
He was forced to pay a $125,000 penalty for “violations of law or regulation, unsafe or unsound practice and/or breach of fiduciary duty.”
According to a consent order filed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in May 2017, Kelly was believed to have violated the law by entering into an agreement “pertaining to a loan by the bank without FDIC approval.”
Two weeks after the lifetime ban, Pruitt appointed Kelly as head of the EPA’s superfund program.
On Sunday, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, who also chairs the House Oversight Committee told hosts of “Face the Nation” that in addition to Perrotta, other top aides would soon be interviewed by the committee.
Gowdy’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday clarifying if Kelly would was also be called to testify.
Pruitt issued a statement on Kelly’s resignation Tuesday saying he would be “sorely missed.”
“In just over a year he has made a tremendous impact on EPA’s superfund program,” Pruitt said.
Kelly has denied any wrongdoing during his time at Spirit Bank. He was quoted in a Montana newspaper in April saying his problems with the FDIC “emanated from one singular transaction in 2010.”
“They didn’t like it. The bank didn’t lose any money. The bank made money. There was nothing untoward about it,” Kelly said.