The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) declined last week to certify former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s financial disclosure report covering 2017, citing the terms of a controversial condo deal that was among the scandals that led to his resignation.
OGE’s General Counsel David Apol explained the decision in a comment to the report. Mr. Apol noted that “OGE was unable to determine whether or not Mr. Pruitt received a reportable gift related to his rental of a Capitol Hill apartment. The [Inspector General] inquiry into the matter was closed without resolution. Therefore, OGE declines to certify.”
It was widely reported that Administrator Pruitt rented a Capitol Hill condo for $50 a night from an energy industry lobbyist. In addition to being far below the market rate, Secretary Pruitt only paid for the nights he stayed at the condo. His daughter also lived there while interning for the White House in the summer of 2017. EPA’s Inspector General closed the probe into the condo arrangement after Pruitt resigned in 2018.
Administrator Pruitt did not disclose any gifts in his financial disclosure report. Rather, he noted that the inventory of those items is at the EPA. As part of a lawsuit, CREW obtained a copy of that inventory.
While it is unusual for OGE to decline to certify a cabinet official’s financial disclosure report, Secretary Pruitt is not the first member of the Trump administration whose ethics issues compelled OGE to take this action.
OGE also declined to certify Secretary Wilbur Ross’s financial disclosure report covering 2017. OGE’s Director Emory Rounds explained that OGE declined to certify the report because “line 4 in Part 2 (and endnote) reports that the filer no longer held BankUnited stock while the transaction report dated October 31, 2018, demonstrates that he did.” As such, Secretary Ross was “not in compliance with his ethics agreement at the time of the report.”
OGE’s refusal to certify these reports is extraordinary. It highlights the extent to which members of the Trump administration disregard basic ethical norms.