Chris White, DCNF
A former EPA aide who said outgoing Administrator Scott Pruitt railroaded him is taking credit for the Oklahoma Republican’s resignation from the agency following a slew of probes into his spending habits.
“I hate to take a credit for a man losing his job, but I guess I’d have to say that I take the credit,” Kevin Chmielewski said Friday in an interview with The Hill. Chmielewski served as deputy chief of staff for operations at the agency during Pruitt’s tenure.
“I’ve put the breadcrumbs where they had to go and pointed to the FOIAs — the FOIAs have been 99.9 percent of it,” Chmielewski said, referring to a trove of documents he leaked after being ousted in April. “They’ve all come back, and in a lot of cases they were worse than I even knew about.”
Chmielewski told The New York Times in May that he was fired in April for taking issue with Pruitt’s excessive first-class flights and other travel and office spending. Other members of the administration disagree with that assertion.
EPA officials said Chmielewski was asked to resign because he failed on several occasions to notify his superiors and other staff members about his whereabouts during long trips, even though they suspected he was doing advance work. Chmielewski was unresponsive while on advance trips, including one to Hawaii, according to officials.
Chmielewski also had a run-in with a Secret Service detail during the presidential campaign — the secret service agents asked him not to get physical with protesters and let “the police do the policework,” a source with knowledge about the incident told The Washington Free Beacon.
The former EPA aide also claims to have advised journalists and environmentalists about which agency documents to seek out via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. He provided reporters with information showing staffers often convened in Pruitt’s office to nix numerous records from the agency chief’s calendar to cover up a paper trail.
Pruitt faced far-ranging questions about his alleged ethical shortcomings before eventually leaving. Democrats grilled him for allegedly paying $6,100 for a room in a condo owned by Vicki Hart, who is married to an energy lobbyist who represents clients in industries regulated by the EPA. Payments to Hart came only on dates when the EPA administrator stayed in the room.
Democrats also teed-off on Pruitt’s flight expenses. Reports from The Washington Post, Politico, and others in February show taxpayers funded at least $90,000 for Pruitt and his top aides to fly in June, which included first-class seats and a ride on a military jet. The EPA maintains the flight upgrades were required due to an uptick in security threats Pruitt has faced during his first year in office.