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Report: Trump appointees kept ousted EPA employees on the payroll

The Environmental Protection Agency watchdog has found two former EPA employees were kept on the payroll by political appointees of former President Trump after their contracts were terminated, Politico first reported Saturday.

Why it matters: The EPA's Office of Inspector General found the agency's former chief of staff Ryan Jackson and former White House liaison Charles Muñoz had "made and used official time sheets and personnel forms that contained materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements," per the Washington Post.

  • Improper payments allegedly directed by Jackson and carried out by Muñoz cost the EPA $37,913.23.
  • The OIG also determined that Muñoz got "an improper raise and submitted 'fraudulent timesheets' that cost EPA almost $96,000," according to Politico.

Of note: Federal prosecutors have declined to press charges over the OIG's findings.

Driving the news: The March OIG report was released under a Freedom of Information Act request by Politico.

  • Both employees who'd had their contracts ended had "objected to the deletion of items from Pruitt's public calendar, including a dinner in Rome with a Vatican cardinal later charged with sexual misconduct," WashPost notes.

Zoom in: The report found one employee, whose contract as scheduler for former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was terminated in August 2017 was told by Jackson that she would receive "severance pay" despite this not being allowed, WashPost notes.

  • Jackson told investigators he "wanted a transition period" because he didn’t think her ouster was fair, according to the report. "I wanted to be helpful to her," he added.
  • The other aide, a whistleblower who was forced out of his role as deputy chief of staff of operations in February 2018, continued receiving pay through April 2018 allegedly at the direction of Muñoz, according to the report, per the Post.
  • Jackson told investigators he wanted to help out while the second aide found work. The aide told WashPost "weeks and months went by where I was still receiving a paycheck."

What they're saying: "Mr. Muñoz explained that the 'fix,' which he believed was Mr. Jackson's idea, was to tell the EPA's Human Resources Management Division that [the person] was on an extended telework schedule so that [they] would receive pay," the OIG report said, according to Politico.

  • "Mr. Muñoz explained that he believed Mr. Jackson would not be happy if he had not followed Mr. Jackson's order to get additional pay for [the person] after [their] termination."
  • Representatives for Jackson, Muñoz and the former Trump administration could not immediately be reached for comment.

Flashback: The scandals that led to Scott Pruitt's resignation

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