Investigative Reporters and Editors has named Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the winner of its annual Golden Padlock Award recognizing the most secretive U.S. agency or individual.
Pruitt was selected for this honor for steadfastly refusing to provide emails in the public interest and removing information from public websites about key environmental programs. The Center for Media and Democracy filed nine public records act requests, and one lawsuit between 2015 and 2017, seeking Pruitt’s emails during his time as Attorney General of Oklahoma. It took two years, and a judge’s order containing candid criticism of Pruitt’s office for its “abject failure” to abide by the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
The resulting emails showed Pruitt "closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire Koch brothers to roll back environmental regulations.” But many other emails have been withheld and are subject to a lawsuit.
Now, as head of the EPA, Pruitt is helping lead a Trump administration effort to remove information from public websites, including some information about air, water and ground pollution and the sources of toxic chemical releases.
"Judges were impressed with the breadth and scope of Pruitt's information suppression techniques around vital matters of public interest," said Robert Cribb, chair of the Golden Padlock committee. "It is a powerful expression of excellence in the principles of government secrecy that the Golden Padlock was created to honor."
IRE invited Pruitt or a representative from his agency to attend the 2017 IRE Conference and receive the honor. No response was received.
"Too many government officials forget that they are paid by the public and that they work for the public," IRE Executive Director Doug Haddix said. "The Golden Padlock finalists are among the most egregious examples. Unfortunately, they have a lot of company with other officials across the country who fail the public by working in secrecy."
To learn about the 2017 finalists, click here.