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Two top aides to Pruitt quit the EPA unexpectedly

  • Author: Coral Davenport, The New York Times
  • Updated: May 1, 2018
  • Published May 1, 2018

WASHINGTON — Two top aides to Scott Pruitt, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency who is facing an array of questions related to his spending and management of the agency, have resigned under increased scrutiny over their roles at the EPA.

The departures include Albert Kelly, who ran the agency's Superfund program, which aims to clean up former hazardous waste sites, and Pasquale Perrotta, who served as the chief of security for Pruitt and helped build an unusual and costly protective apparatus around him.

Kelly, widely known as Kell, was a longtime business associate of Pruitt's in his home state of Oklahoma who previously had a banking career before being barred from working in the finance industry. Before joining the EPA, Kelly led an Oklahoma bank that issued a mortgage for a home purchased by Pruitt through a shell company registered to another business partner of Pruitt's, Kenneth Wagner. Wagner now holds a senior position at the EPA.

Perrotta, known as Nino, is a former Secret Service agent with a background investigating the Gambino crime family.

Officially, Perrotta led Pruitt's protective detail, but he played a larger role at the EPA by arguing that the security needs of the agency justified some management, personnel and spending decisions at the agency. Perrotta's influence placed him at the center of inquiries by the EPA inspector general's office into excessive spending and possible violations of contracting rules by Pruitt's administration, according to senior officials at the EPA, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The resignations of Kelly and Perrotta come as Pruitt is the subject of 11 federal investigations related to, among other things, his office's illegal purchase of a secure phone booth, his condominium-rental agreement with the wife of an energy lobbyist, and accusations that he demoted or sidelined EPA employees who questioned his actions.

The House Oversight Committee is scheduled to interview Perrotta on Wednesday, as part of its investigation into Pruitt's alleged ethical lapses.

"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, serving as chair of the Superfund Task Force and presiding over the development of the steps necessary to implement the recommendations in the report."

Of Perrotta, Pruitt said: "Nino Perrotta has selflessly served the American people for more than 23 years, beginning his career as a special agent with the United States Secret Service and then serving four EPA administrators. His hard work and dedication will be missed by all those who worked with him. I want to thank him for his service and wish him the very best in retirement."