WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency has signed a contract for nearly $25,000 to build a soundproof communications booth for the office of the administrator, Scott Pruitt. The contract, with Acoustical Solutions in Richmond, Virginia, was first reported by The Washington Post. It calls for the construction of a $24,570 “privacy booth” for Pruitt’s office.
Liz Bowman, a spokeswoman for the EPA, did not return requests for comment on the contract. In a statement to the Post, she said agencies needed to have such booths to guard against hacking and eavesdropping. “This is something which a number, if not all, Cabinet offices have and EPA needs to have updated,” she said. Critics say Pruitt has gone to unusual lengths to operate in secrecy at the EPA, where employees report he is often accompanied by armed guards even inside the agency, and avoids making important calls in his office. He is the first EPA administrator to have round-the-clock security.
Steve Snider, a salesman at Acoustical Solutions who handled the EPA contract, said privacy booths are typically used to conduct hearing tests and cost between $5,000 and $6,000. He said the EPA had requested significant modifications that ultimately required them to have the booth custom-ordered through the manufacturer. “They wanted a secure phone and computer room, essentially for sensitive information,” Snider said. “You can’t hear what’s going on outside, but conversely people outside can’t hear what’s going on inside.”
The company has worked with government offices since at least 2007 to soundproof rooms and provide acoustic insulation, according to the federal contract database. The company currently has contracts with the Department of the Treasury to create a sound enclosure at the U.S. Mint in Denver. Snider said the EPA’s request for a secure booth for the head of the agency was unusual. “It’s the first time that I’ve seen it,” he said.
Liz Purchia-Gannon, who previously served as a spokeswoman for Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator under President Barack Obama, called the purchase “bizarre” and unnecessary. Purchia-Gannon said that the agency already had a secure room for working with classified information.
“As someone who spent a lot of time in the administrator’s office, I can tell you that there was nothing like this previously,” she said. “I can’t imagine why this taxpayer expense would be necessary and why an extra secure room is needed in his office, other than to avoid staff.”
Source & Photo : OttawaCitizen