Pruitt’s security chief faces lawsuit

By Kevin Bogardus | 04/17/2018 01:04 PM EDT

The group American Oversight is taking EPA to court to obtain agency records on Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, the head of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s personal security detail.

The liberal-leaning watchdog today filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the agency in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The group’s complaint says EPA failed to fulfill several of its FOIA requests for travel records related to Perrotta as well as his communications with his business associates outside the agency.

Nino Perotta. Photo credit: Sequoia Security Group Inc.
Nino Perrotta. | Sequoia Security Group Inc.

The lawsuit is also targeting waivers given to Pruitt for business-class and first-class flights as EPA chief.

Perrotta has come under scrutiny in recent months after Pruitt’s expansive security measures, including 24/7 protection, installation of a secure phone booth and a sweep of the administrator’s office for surveillance bugs, have drawn questions from lawmakers.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and several Democratic lawmakers have sent letters to EPA seeking similar records.

Specifically, Perrotta has drawn attention for what role he played in EPA awarding the bug sweep contract to one of his business partners, Edwin Steinmetz.

In March last year, the agency paid Steinmetz $3,000 for the sweep. Perrotta and Steinmetz are both listed as executives of Sequoia Security Group Inc., a security firm.

"Whether Mr. Perrotta has been making recommendations based on real security concerns or whether he’s simply enabling Scott Pruitt’s spending in order to advance his own career and steer jobs to his business associates, it’s clear that he’s gone far beyond his job description as a bodyguard," said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, in a statement.

The group has won other records from EPA through FOIA lawsuits, including Pruitt’s private calendar and documents that showed the total cost of about $43,000 to build the secure phone booth in the EPA chief’s office.

Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office ruled that EPA violated appropriations law by not giving advance notice to Congress that the agency exceeded the $5,000 spending limit on office redecoration in installing the phone booth (Greenwire, April 16).