Man hired to sweep Pruitt’s office for bugs is in business with top EPA security official
WASHINGTON — Two senior Senate Democrats asked Environment Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Tuesday to provide details about how a business associate of the head of his security detail got a security contract with the agency.
Pasquale ‘‘Nino’’ Perrotta — who heads Pruitt’s security detail and also serves as a principal of Rockville, Md.-based Sequoia Security Group — suggested last year to EPA officials that they hire a fellow member of the management team at Sequoia, Edwin Steinmetz, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal agency decisions. The roughly $3,000 contract to sweep Pruitt’s office for concealed listening devices was conducted by Edwin Steinmetz Associates, the official said.
The Associated Press reported last year that the EPA had hired Steinmetz to conduct the bug sweep, though it did not report that Perrotta had suggested agency officials seek Steinmetz’s services, or that they are in business together. Pruitt also had biometric locks installed in his office, for two separate payments of $3,390 and $2,495, according to the AP. Those expenditures weren’t disclosed on the government’s contracting website because the threshold for reporting stands at $3,500.
Steinmetz is listed as Sequoia’s vice president of technical surveillance measures. And while it was his own firm, based in New Jersey, that received the bug-sweeping contract, Senators Thomas Carper of Delaware and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — both senior Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — are seeking documentation to prove that Perrotta obeyed federal conflict-of-interest rules.
‘‘These facts raise questions about Mr. Perrotta’s compliance with EPA regulations and concerns that he may have used his position at the agency to influence the award of EPA contracts to a person or company in which he has a financial interest,’’ they wrote in Tuesday’s letter.
EPA officials could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday morning.
Under federal statute, the senators noted, a government official cannot participate ‘‘in a . . . contract, claim . . . or other particular matter in which, to his knowledge, he, his . . . general partner, [or] organization in which he is serving as officer, director, trustee, general partner or employee . . . has a financial interest.’’
Perrotta, a former Bronx criminal investigator and Secret Service agent who held several overseas posts, has protected EPA leaders dating to the George W. Bush administration. Despite that full-time job, he has pursued numerous side ventures over the years.
He was head of a contracting business, P&P Construction, from 2004 through late 2012, according to LinkedIn and various public records.
Since early 2013, he has managed Sequoia, a ‘‘boutique security and investigative firm.’’ On Sequoia’s website, Perrotta is listed as the firm’s principal leader.
In the past, he also has referred to himself as the company’s ‘‘founder and CEO.’’
Steinmetz, meanwhile, is listed as part of the firm’s ‘‘management team’’ and a vice president of technical surveillance measures.
His online biography says he has ‘‘over 30 years of combined law enforcement, public and private sector experience in ‘specialized’ security services,’’ and that he is an expert in conducting surveillance sweeps.