EPA watchdog: Two Pruitt aides received earlier raises

Washington (CNN)The two aides to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt who received substantial raises also each received an earlier pay increase, according to an agency inspector general report released Monday.

The aides are not identified by name in the report, but multiple details, including salary information, correspond with an account first reported by The Atlantic. A former deputy chief of staff to Pruitt later briefed congressional investigators about the raises.
The documents show the two aides' raises were signed off by Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, who in some instances signed his name "Ryan Jackson for Scott Pruitt" on Pruitt's stationary.
Whether the raises were granted with or without Pruitt's knowledge has emerged as a key question, both because of the size of the raises and the White House's previous decision to turn down pay bumps for the aides. One of the two aides wrote in an email to human resources that her raise was approved by the administrator.
    Pruitt insisted in a recent interview that he did not know the raises were being granted.
    "I did not," Pruitt told Fox News earlier this month. "We are in the process of finding out how it took place and correcting that," he said, adding he was unaware who signed off on the raises.
    One of the aides, identified by The Atlantic as EPA attorney Sarah Greenwalt, was initially hired with a salary of nearly $98,000. After her second raise, Greenwalt was earning slightly more than $164,000.
    The other aide, scheduler Millan Hupp, was hired with a $66,500 salary. Following a promotion and her previously reported raise, Hupp's salary reached $114,600.
    EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said the agency cooperated with the ongoing inspector general probe.
    "Salary determinations for appointees are made by EPA's chief of staff, White House liaison, and career human resources officials," Wilcox said. "Salaries are based on work history; and, any increases are due to either new and additional responsibilities or promotions."
    The inspector general's office has been looking into certain EPA hiring practices since January. Monday's report is an interim report while the inspector general continues to probe the matter.
    The report also documents several other instances where EPA employees received raises. In one instance, the raise was personally approved by Pruitt. The inspector general did not conclude any wrongdoing based on Pruitt's signature, but noted that it indicates "direct involvement by the Administrator" in a pay raise.