Michael Bastasch, DCNF
Many of the accusations against Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and his close aides were concocted by “disgruntled employees” looking to damage the agency, the former head of Pruitt’s security detail said.
“I believe at the end of the day, these are disgruntled employees — staffers — who, for whatever reason, decided to air dirty laundry — false dirty laundry to the press,” Nino Perrotta told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an exclusive interview.
Perrotta served as the special agent in charge of Pruitt’s security detail for about a year, leading the administrator’s protective detail as actuations of overspending and ethical violations. Congress and EPA’s Office of Inspector General have multiple investigations into Pruitt’s actions.
Perrotta retired at the end of April, ending his 14-year career at EPA amid investigations into Pruitt’s security arrangements — including his 24/7 detail, hiring of more agents, and flying first class when traveling.
Former EPA official Kevin Chmielewski detailed many accusations against Pruitt, Perrotta and other top aides to congressional Democrats. Many of the accusations were “intentionally used to mislead the American people,” Perrotta told TheDCNF.
Chmielewski was one of several EPA staffers allegedly sidelined for challenging Pruitt on spending decisions. However, Perrotta believes Chmielewski decided to come out against Pruitt after a January 2018 phone call.
During that call, Chmielewski vented to Perrotta about issues he was having with his pay, the former EPA security head said. Perrotta said he tried to help Chmielewski with his pay issue, but the former EPA official “began to threaten the EPA, specifically the administrator and the chief of staff, that he was going to talk to the press and everyone he could about,” using colorful language, “how f-ed up the EPA was and how f-ed up the administrator was and how f-ed up the chief of staff was.”
“I found that to be very, very bizarre,” Perrotta said. “If you have differences, it should be aired through your chain of command.”
Chmielewski called the next day, but given his tone and threatening statements on their previous call, Perrotta said he’d have to report the former EPA official. Perrotta filed the report with the agency.
Pruitt’s been increasingly mired in negative news stories — many of them likely the result of Chmielewski talking to the press and Congress. News reports have already called into question the veracity of many of Chmielewski’s claim.
For example, “a $30,000 contract with private Italian security personnel entered into by” Perrotta ahead of Pruitt’s attendance of a G7 summit in Italy, Chmielewski told Congress. Perrotta would never have the authority to unilaterally enter into such a contract, the former EPA security head said.
“That is a false accusation,” Perrotta told TheDCNF. “A person at my level and grade in the agency would have the authority to do so.”
Chmielewski also told Democratic lawmakers “at least one security-related contract was awarded to an individual who works at Mr. Perrotta’s private security firm, and he believes that other contracts may also have been awarded to friends or associates of Mr. Perrotta’s.”
It’s true EPA hired Edwin Steinmetz to conduct a security sweep of Pruitt’s office in 2017, costing the agency $3,000. Steinmetz is listed on the management team of Perrotta’s security firm he operates on the side, Sequoia Security Group.
Perrotta said he explained to superiors that Steinmetz, a security consultant, subcontracted through his side company, which EPA gave him approval to operate in 2013. EPA officials asked Perrotta in 2017 if he could recommend a company to conduct a security sweep of Pruitt’s office.
“The only reason that the vendor was selected,” Perrotta said, “is because there were issues within the agency of identifying a new vendor, which to me was bizarre.”
“It was clear to me, now, that certain people compared notes, shared information, and created this false narrative. And I believe the American people are going to see this, eventually,” Perrotta said.
You can watch TheDCNF’s entire interview with Perrotta here. And stay tuned for more.
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