EPA chief Scott Pruitt and his aides kept "secret" calendars and schedules to hide controversial meetings or calls with industry representatives and others, CNN reported Monday night.
According to the news outlet, Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff for operations — expected to soon testify before Congress — alleges staffers met routinely in Pruitt's office to "scrub," alter or remove from the official calendar a number of records because they might "look bad."
CNN reported its own review of Pruitt's public calendar when compared with internal EPA schedules and emails shows more than two dozen meetings, events or calls that were omitted from the public document.
Chmielewski said some interactions were intentionally removed from Pruitt's calendar after they occurred, such as meetings in June 2017 between Pruitt and Cardinal George Pell, who was later charged with sexual offenses, CNN reported. Pell has pleaded not guilty.
"We would have meetings what we were going to take off on the official schedule. We had at one point three different schedules. One of them was one that no one else saw except three or four of us," Chmielewski told CNN. "It was a secret . . . and they would decide what to nix from the public calendar."
Chmielewski says he was forced to leave the EPA in February after raising questions about Pruitt's spending and management, CNN reported.
If his allegations are true, the practice of keeping secret calendars and altering or deleting records of meetings could violate federal law as either "falsifying records" or hiding public records, legal experts told CNN.
William Ruckelshaus, the nation's first EPA administrator selected to start the agency by President Richard Nixon, and who was tapped again to be the administrator under President Ronald Reagan, told CNN he first began a long-running practice of publicly releasing the schedules of senior EPA officials.
He also said Pruitt should not meet with industry representatives or stakeholders without full disclosure to the public.
"That destroys trust, and these regulatory agencies need trust," Ruckelshaus told CNN. "If they don't have it, they're in real trouble."
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