A family friend of the lobbyists who rented a room to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was considered for a position at the agency, according to emails first reported by The New York Times on Sunday and confirmed by CNN.
Pruitt’s ethics have been repeatedly questioned after a string of controversies, one being a housing agreement in Washington, where he reportedly rented a room for below-market price from lobbyist J. Steven Hart and his wife, Vicki.
Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, and Hart exchanged emails discussing hiring the family friend of Hart, according to emails obtained by CNN from the Sierra Club, which filed a lawsuit resulting in the release of the emails.
“She has talked to Scott about this kid who is important to us. He told Vicki to talk to you about how to handle this,” according to one email sent by Hart to Jackson in April 2017.
In May, Hart asked Jackson, “Would you have time to meet with him?” regarding the friend.
The Times notes that the emails reveal deeper ties between the EPA and Hart.
However, a statement from Hart’s spokesman to The New York Times called Jackson “an old friend,” and denied having received any special treatment.
“As I have said repeatedly, I never received any special treatment from Administrator Pruitt or had any undue influence over the Environmental Protection Agency,” the statement said, according to the Times.
A spokesman for Pruitt, Jahan Wilcox, also responded to the Times in a statement, saying, “Many of these emails were unsolicited and did not impact any agency policy outcomes,” adding that, “the agency accepts career recommendations from a number of acquaintances.”
He also noted, according to the Times, that the family friend was not hired.
On Friday, CNN reported that Pruitt had only sent a small number of external emails from his EPA account, according to reviews of documents released by the EPA.
While the EPA said Pruitt mostly conducts agency business in person, the Sierra Club, which obtained the records, said it was concerned he may be using an undisclosed work account, a personal email address or other methods that do not preserve public records as required under federal law.
Pruitt’s use of email is the subject of an investigation by the EPA inspector general.
CNN’s Gregory Wallace and Curt Devine contributed to this report.