EPA’s Pruitt un­der fire for ask­ing Trump donor to hire his wife

Houston Chronicle - - NATION | WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — Em­bat­tled En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency head Scott Pruitt en­listed a staffer to work with key Repub­li­can donors — in­clud­ing a top Trump sup­porter from Dal­las — to find a job for his wife, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port.

The talks may have led to Mar­lyn Pruitt land­ing a tem­po­rary role with the con­ser­va­tive Ju­di­cial Cri­sis Net­work, ac­cord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post, cit­ing un­named peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter, and has raised new ques­tions about Pruitt’s use of his of­fi­cial role for per­sonal gain.

Though the Dal­las donor, Doug Dea­son, cited con­flicts of in­ter­est in turn­ing down Pruitt’s re­quest to hire Mar­lyn Pruitt, on Wed­nes­day he de­fended the ad­min­is­tra­tor’s in­quiry as “rea­son­able” and down­played the for­mer EPA staffer’s role in those talks.

Dea­son, who with his fa­ther, Dar­win, has close ties to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, was among those who cham­pi­oned the for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral of Ok­la­homa for the EPA po­si­tion. He also helped se­lect mem­bers for an EPA Sci­ence Ad­vi­sory Board last year.

In an interview with the Dal­las Morn­ing News on Wed­nes­day, Dea­son said he and Pruitt spoke “friend to friend” about em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for his wife in late 2016.

At the time, Pruitt was on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s short­list to be­come the head of the en­vi­ron­men­tal agency and was con­tem­plat­ing the fi­nan­cial re­al­i­ties of a move to Wash­ing­ton while main­tain­ing the cou­ple’s home in Tulsa, Dea­son said.

“It was a per­fectly rea­son­able thing to ask,” Dea­son said, adding that Mar­lyn had been a stayat-home mother and “he was go­ing to need her to go back to work to sup­ple­ment the fam­ily in­come” if he was con­firmed.

The Dal­las busi­ness­man con­firmed that he did not hire Mar­lyn Pruitt be­cause his com­pany, Dea­son Cap­i­tal Ser­vices, has stake in the oil and gas com­pany Fore­land Re­sources, which falls un­der the agency’s purview. Dea­son said he told Pruitt that he’d help brain­storm other op­por­tu­ni­ties for his wife.

He con­firmed that, as part of those talks, he cor­re­sponded with Sa­man­tha Dravis, who was Pruitt’s ad­viser dur­ing the nom­i­na­tion process and later served as as­so­ciate ad­min­is­tra­tor for the EPA’s Office of Pol­icy. He also spoke with Pruitt’s out­side coun­sel, Cleta Mitchell, about the mat­ter.

Mitchell nor Dravis, who left the EPA in April, could be im­me­di­ately reached for com­ment on Wed­nes­day.

Vir­ginia Can­ter, ex­ec­u­tive branch ethics coun­sel for the public watch­dog group Cit­i­zens for Re­spon­si­bil­ity and Ethics in Wash­ing­ton, told the Post that tap­ping a full-time EPA em­ployee to “be­come the head­hunter for his spouse” was “highly inap­pro­pri­ate.”

A spokesman for the Ju­di­cial Cri­sis Net­work con­firmed to the out­let that it em­ployed Mar­lyn Pruitt, a for­mer school nurse, “tem­po­rar­ily” as an in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor. Politico re­ports that she worked there from fall 2017 to spring 2018, though the or­ga­ni­za­tion hasn’t dis­closed what she was paid.

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