Oklahoma Bar Association Probing Ethics Complaint Against Scott Pruitt

The case concerns Pruitt's personal email address and official business.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has not commented on the Oklahoma Bar Association investigation nor on the complaint.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has not commented on the Oklahoma Bar Association investigation nor on the complaint.
Joshua Roberts / Reuters

The Oklahoma Bar Association has launched an investigation into an ethics complaint filed against Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.

The complaint accuses Pruitt of breaching Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct by allegedly misrepresenting the facts when he told a Senate committee at his confirmation hearing that he did not use a personal email address to conduct business while attorney general of Oklahoma, reported KSWO-TV.

Documents that the attorney general’s office released through an Open Records Act lawsuit in Oklahoma appear to contradict sworn testimony from Pruitt, the state’s former attorney general.

“It appears that Mr. Pruitt misrepresented material facts that bore on the Senate committee’s analysis of Mr. Pruitt’s fitness to serve as EPA Administrator,” states the complaint, filed last week by the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, which works to protect endangered species, and University of Oklahoma law professor Kristen van de Biezenbos.

Emails released as part of the lawsuit include a message from an executive of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers association to Pruitt’s me.com address, asking him to use his position as the state’s attorney general to help roll back renewable fuel standards set by the Obama administration, according to a statement from the Center for Biological Diversity.

“We have ... opened this matter for investigation,” said a letter from the bar to van de Biezenbos dated Tuesday. “After the matter has been fully investigated, your grievance and the response of [Pruitt’s] attorney will be presented to the Professional Responsibility Commission.”

Attorney Amy Atwood from the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement that she was “very pleased” about the investigation. “Lying to Congress is a serious ethical breach, and it doesn’t help that Pruitt’s use of private emails reflect potential collusion with the very oil and gas industry he’s now supposed to be regulating,” she said.

Pruitt has not commented on the investigation nor on the complaint.

He was narrowly confirmed as EPA head last month despite Democrats’ calls to delay the vote until the release of new documents detailing his relationship with oil and gas companies while he was attorney general.

A group of law professors last month filed a “professional misconduct” complaint against President Donald Trump’s chief counsel Kellyanne Conway with the Washington, D.C., Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Board of Professional Responsibility, which addresses complaints about members of the local bar. They argued that Conway’s several lies (including linking immigrants to a fictitious “Bowling Green massacre”) was bringing “shame upon the legal profession.”

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