White House liaison heads to Las Vegas

By Kevin Bogardus | 06/25/2018 01:25 PM EDT

One of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s senior aides moved last month to an agency office in Las Vegas.

One of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s senior aides moved last month to an agency office in Las Vegas.

Charles Munoz, formerly EPA’s White House liaison, is now a senior adviser to Mike Stoker, the Region 9 administrator, whose appointment was announced last month.

An EPA Region 9 spokeswoman told E&E News that Munoz, who’s from Nevada, transferred to Las Vegas to help the new regional chief "during his transition and to work specifically on environmental issues in the Pacific Southwest."

Charles Munoz. Photo credit: @CharlesM_DC/Twitter
Charles Munoz. | @CharlesM_DC/Twitter

Region 9 oversees EPA operations in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and the Pacific Islands. The branch’s main office is in San Francisco.

At EPA headquarters in Washington, Kaitlyn Shimmin has replaced Munoz as White House liaison, sources tell E&E News. She joined the agency during the early months of the Trump administration and has worked in EPA’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations.

Munoz has had a role in the upheaval at the Trump administration’s EPA. He was named in an April 12 letter by Democratic lawmakers that described allegations by Kevin Chmielewski, the former EPA deputy chief of staff for operations, who clashed with Pruitt.

In February, Munoz told Chmielewski that Pruitt wanted him to resign, according to the letter. Further, Munoz was on a call between Chmielewski and Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, the EPA special agent who led Pruitt’s security detail, who retired earlier this year.

Perrotta wanted to go to Chmielewski’s home to retrieve his parking pass and said he "didn’t give a fuck who is on this call."

Chmielewski, who left EPA earlier this year, told E&E News he brought Munoz in on the call between Perrotta and him with the purpose of Munoz serving as a witness.

Munoz was also one of the senior EPA officials who helped sign off on some of the raises and promotions that have attracted scrutiny from the EPA Office of Inspector General. His signature is on some of the documents included in an IG management alert issued in April (E&E News PM, April 16).

The IG is examining Pruitt’s and others’ use of a special hiring authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act to quickly staff up the agency. The watchdog is expected to release its final report this summer.

Munoz didn’t respond to messages from E&E News for this story.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said Munoz saw a chance to move back home with his job switch to Region 9.

"Charles Munoz is from Nevada; there was an opportunity within our regional Las Vegas office, and he decided to move home while he continues to advance President Trump’s agenda of environmental stewardship and regulatory certainty," Wilcox said.

Munoz was a member of President Trump’s "beachhead" team at EPA to help the new administration transition in at the agency. He, along with Don Benton, then the senior White House adviser at EPA, sent the team’s initial message to agency employees in January last year (Greenwire, Jan. 24, 2017).

Before joining EPA, Munoz worked on Trump’s campaign as its Nevada state director. He has been a deputy state director for Americans for Prosperity in Nevada, as well.

While Munoz remains at EPA, other Pruitt aides have parted ways with the agency.

Senior adviser Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp, who was head of scheduling, left EPA this month. Albert "Kell" Kelly, a close friend of Pruitt’s brought on at EPA, and Samantha Dravis, who led the policy team, have also exited the agency recently.

Chmielewski said Munoz and other EPA aides want to put distance between themselves and Pruitt. The EPA chief is facing multiple investigations into allegations centered on his travel, security and rental for part of last year of a condo linked to a lobbyist, among other issues, and has set up a legal defense fund.

"He was trying to get out of there, like everyone else," Chmielewski said. "No one wants to be around it, [because] look what is happening to everyone, except Pruitt."