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EPA’s top watchdog quits amid probes of agency’s leadership

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog office announced his retirement Tuesday, leaving subordinates to pursue ongoing ethics probes involving former EPA chief Scott Pruitt and his team.

Arthur A. Elkins Jr., inspector general for the agency since 2010, said in a statement he was leaving for an unspecified job outside of the federal government.

The EPA Office of the Inspector General is an independently-funded operation charged with investigating and reviewing the agency’s conduct. Its work since last year has included probes of a series of allegations that Pruitt and his aides misused the office for the benefit of Pruitt and his family.

Pruitt resigned earlier this summer.

The inspector general’s public affairs staff declined an interview request for Elkins after Tuesday’s announcement. A spokesman, Jeffrey Lagda, said Elkins’ departure was not in protest of any action by the agency regarding the investigations of Pruitt’s leadership.

Elkins’ departure “will definitely not impact any of the ongoing OIG reviews related to allegations regarding former EPA Administrator Pruitt and his staff,” Lagda said in an email.

Elkins had carried out his office’s oversight responsibilities “honorably and professionally,” Andrew Wheeler, the agency’s acting administrator, said in a statement.

Elkins’ deputy, Charles Sheehan, will take over as acting inspector general. Sheehan has been with the agency’s watchdog office since 2012.

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