Two top EPA staffers resign amid ongoing ethics probes

WASHINGTON, May 1 (Reuters) - Two high-level Environmental Protection Agency employees whose names have come up in ongoing probes into Administrator Scott Pruitt's ethics and travel have resigned from the agency, the EPA confirmed on Tuesday.

Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent who served as the head of Pruitt's security team, resigned on Monday, but said he will continue to cooperate in a U.S. House of Representatives investigation into his role in costly decisions around Pruitt's security. ABC News first reported the resignation on Tuesday.

Albert "Kell" Kelly, who ran the agency's Superfund cleanup program, also announced his resignation, the EPA confirmed. Kelly was barred by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from working at any U.S. financial institution after unspecified violations while working at a bank in Oklahoma.

The resignations come just days after lawmakers grilled Pruitt in back-to-back hearings on reports of ethics violations, excessive spending on travel and security, close industry ties and the reassignment of agency whistleblowers who flagged concerns about high spending.

Those issues included the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in Pruitt's office and the routine use of first-class flights - both of which EPA has argued were important to protecting Pruitt's safety and privacy.

Pruitt praised both men for their work at EPA.

“Kell Kelly’s service at EPA will be sorely missed," Pruitt said in a statement. "In just over a year he has made a tremendous impact on EPA’s Superfund program."

RELATED: A look at Scott Pruitt

10 PHOTOS
Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt
See Gallery
Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaks to employees of the Agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito as his wife Marilyn holds a bible during ceremony at the Executive Office in Washington, U.S., February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meets with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) (L) in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy John R.H. Collison (L) meets with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to discuss state water issues at the attorney generals office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014.

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in a meeting at his office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014. 

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Pruitt said of Perrotta that he "selflessly served the American people for more than 23 years" as a Secret Service agent and under four EPA administrators. "I want to thank him for his service and wish him the very best in retirement."

House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said on Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that his committee had scheduled interviews with Perrotta and other senior Pruitt aides this week.

He said the panel also received documents it requested from the EPA related to Pruitt and his staff's use of first-class flights and a condo rental agreement between Pruitt and the wife of an industry lobbyist.

President Donald Trump has not indicated whether the slew of scandals would affect Pruitt's tenure.

Several Republicans in the House who have embraced Pruitt's deregulatory agenda said Pruitt was unfairly grilled by Democrats regarding the scandals, but others said his answers to some key questions were vague. (Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

RELATED: Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle

28 PHOTOS
Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
See Gallery
Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
Hope Hicks: Former White House Director of Strategic Communications
Melania Trump: Wife to President Trump and first lady of the United States
Gary Cohn: Former Director of the U.S. National Economic Council
Michael Flynn: Former National Security Advisor, no longer with the Trump administration
Ivanka Trump: First daughter and presidential adviser
Gen. John Kelly: Former Secretary of Homeland Security, current White House chief of staff
Steve Bannon: Former White House chief strategist, no longer with the Trump administration
Jared Kushner: Son-in-law and senior adviser
Kellyanne Conway: Former Trump campaign manager, current counselor to the president
Reince Priebus: Former White House chief of staff, no longer with the Trump administration
Anthony Scaramucci: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: White House press secretary
Donald Trump Jr.: First son to President Trump
Sean Spicer: Former White House press secretary, soon to be no longer with the Trump administration
Jeff Sessions: U.S. attorney general
Steve Mnuchin: Secretary of Treasury
Paul Manafort: Former Trump campaign chairman
Carter Page: Former foreign policy adviser to Trump's presidential campaign
Omarosa Manigault: Former Director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison
Jason Miller: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Mike Dubke: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Stephen Miller: Trump senior policy adviser
Corey Lewandowski: Former Trump campaign manager
Eric Trump: Son to President Trump
Rex Tillerson: Former Secretary of State
Sebastian Gorka: Former deputy assistant to the president in the Trump administration, no longer in his White House role
Roger Stone: Former Trump campaign adviser, current host of Stone Cold Truth
Betsy DeVos: U.S. Education Secretary
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story