Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt took some heat late last year when reports surfaced that he spent nearly $25,000 on a private soundproof booth for his office -- a booth he said was necessary to make sensitive phone calls.
Now, the Washington Post reports that Pruitt's $25,000 booth required about $18,000 worth of prep work, bringing the grand total to nearly $43,000.
The agency paid a Virginia firm $7,978 to remove closed-circuit television equipment to make room for the booth, according to a federal database. Officials hired another contractor to pour 55 square feet of concrete more than two feet thick, at a cost of $3,470, according to invoices released under a public records request by the watchdog group American Oversight. Other workers installed a drop ceiling for $3,361, while still others patched and painted the small area for $3,350, records show.
When approached for comment regarding the latest revelation, Pruitt's office had little to say:
“This is old news,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an email Tuesday when asked about the additional expenses. “In September of 2017 we thoroughly discussed why this secure communications line was needed for the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
Pruitt gave the same story to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last December, saying the booth was "necessary for me to be able to do my job", but the Post notes that no former EPA administrators required a soundproof booth in their offices.
The new information came to light as part of a broader records request by American Oversight, which filed a lawsuit last year to force the EPA to release records regarding Pruitt's remodeling and renovating expenditures.
In addition to the preparations for the soundproof booth, the invoices released by the EPA showed that Pruitt paid $2,075 to refinish a desk that had been stored in a government warehouse, as well as $2,963 for a new “captain’s desk” in his office. In a memo included in the release, an EPA staffer wrote that officials had found lower-cost standing desks for Pruitt, but those were made overseas and did not meet federal requirements that government leaders buy products made in the United States.