March 14, 2018
Before Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt could install a secure, soundproof phone booth in his office last fall, officials had to create space for the addition in a nearby closet area.
Those preparations didn’t come cheap.
The agency paid a Virginia firm $7,978 to remove closed-circuit television equipment to make room for the booth, according to a federal database. Officials hired another contractor to pour 55 square feet of concrete more than two feet thick, at a cost of $3,470, according to invoices released under a public records request by the watchdog group American Oversight. Other workers installed a drop ceiling for $3,361, while still others patched and painted the small area for $3,350, records show.
In total, the EPA appears to have spent more than $18,000 on the prep work, readying the space for a $25,000 soundproof booth that has brought Pruitt a wave of criticism and official scrutiny. The total cost for the project now appears to be closer to $43,000.
“This is old news,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an email Tuesday when asked about the additional expenses. “In September of 2017 we thoroughly discussed why this secure communications line was needed for the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”