Anti-NRA Bias from Olbermann

On Monday night, July 18, Keith Olbermann mocked the NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, because of LaPierre’s criticism of Columbus, Ohio’s recently-passed assault weapons ban. On his Countdown program, Olbermann has a regular segment called the “Worst Person in the World” in which he introduces three nominees for the dishonor – the first nominee labeled as “worse,” the second nominee labeled as “worser,” and the third nominee labeled as “worst.” Olbermann bestowed upon LaPierre the distinction of “worser” as detailed in the below quote from last night’s show: Keith Olbermann “Also nominated, Wayne LaPierre, president of the ever-popular NRA, the National Rifle Association. He’s moving the group’s 2007 convention out of Columbus, Ohio, after the city council there passed a ban on assault weapons. As a result, LaPierre tells the city, 65,000 people will not be coming to your wonderful convention center, hundreds of exhibitors will not fill your halls with their latest guns, outdoor gear and hunting accessories. I’m confused. Oh, I get it. He thinks that’s a punishment. Okay.”

 

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Media Ignore Further Weaknesses in Obama Firing Inspector Gen Walpin

Sterling's comments come right on the heel of the Republican hero last week, Cliven Bundy. He remarks were outrageous; now we got more. This week's racist comments remind me of last week's racist comments.

(...)

Racism still runs rampant in the Republican Party. That's right.  It's just a little harder to identify sometimes. It's not out in the open like Cliven Bundy or Donald Sperling.  In March, failed vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan came under criticism, saying this about inner city men: (REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI))

 

 

Apart from several shows on FNC, and a few reports on CNN, the mainstream television news media have ignored the controversial firing of former Inspector General Gerald Walpin, who had recently battled for tougher penalties for Obama friend and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson after an investigation by Walpin found Johnson had misused hundreds of thousands of tax dollars granted by the AmeriCorps program to the Johnson-founded St. Hope charity. Over the past week, there have been a number of developments further casting doubt on the White House's decisions and bolstering Walpin's case that he was wrongfully booted.

According to the June 24 article "Even Political Foes Cheer on Fired AmeriCorps Inspector General Walpin," Paul Bedard of U.S. News and World Report writes that Walpin "has some pretty important friends coming to his defense. Some 145 of them, including political foes, have written Congress and the White House to refute attacks on his integrity in the controversy over why he was fired by the Obama administration." Bedard notes that the list "includes former federal judges and even Democrats like Bernie Nussbaum, former President Clinton's first White House counsel," as the group wrote that "All of us are unanimous in affirming Mr. Walpin's integrity and competence."

In the June 22 article "Walpin-gate Opens Wider; FBI Investigation Embarrasses the White House," the Washington Times wrote that "The FBI has opened an investigation into a Sacramento program formerly run by a close ally of President Obama's, giving credence to the IG's work."

The article also recounted that Walpin and the acting U.S. attorney involved in the case, Lawrence Brown, had clashed because Walpin had complained that Brown "had negotiated far too lenient a settlement of the charges against Mayor Johnson and St. Hope." The White House had cited a complaint by Brown against Walpin as part of its justification for firing the inspector general. But, as noted by the Times, the White House "fired Mr. Walpin long before the relevant committee would have finished its assessment of the U.S. attorney's complaint."

Arguing that Walpin's view of the seriousness of the situation at St. Hope is well-founded, the article also recounted: "On the very same day that the president fired Mr. Walpin, St. Hope's executive director, Rick Maya, left his job at St. Hope. He did not go quietly. His resignation letter charged Mr. Johnson and several St. Hope board members with numerous ethical violations. Most explosively, he charged that a board member improperly deleted e-mails of Mr. Johnson's that already were under a federal subpoena."

In the June 17 article, "Walpin-gate's 'Egregious Stuff'; There's Still No Cause for Obama Firing of an IG," the Washington Times informed readers that Walpin and several of his staff had submitted an 18-page rebuttal to Brown's accusations. Regarding Brown's complaint that Walpin had given information to the media before delivering the same information to Brown's office, the Times recounts Walpin's side of the story: "The U.S. Attorney's Office claims it only learned of developments in the investigation through news articles inspired by the inspector general. That's odd. The U.S. Attorney's Office actually submitted, as requested by Mr. Walpin's team, a letter necessary for the action against Mayor Johnson. So that claim is false, too."

In the June 24 article, "Lieberman Overlooks Walpin-gate; Public Hearings are Needed on IG Firing," the Washington Times also recounted Walpin's side of the story as a rebuttal to Brown's charge that information was withheld from him by the inspector general: "On the withholding of certain memos, it turns out that the supposed 'withholding' occurred at a meeting Mr. Walpin did not attend - but at which, we are told, his staff discussed with other investigators the memos in question. So it wasn't as if they, much less Mr. Walpin, were deliberately trying to conceal anything." 

In the June 18 article, "A Witness to Walpin-gate; An Eye Witness Contradicts the White House," the Washington Times cited an anonymous witness to the infamous May 20 meeting between Walpin and the bipartisan board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which claimed Walpin was "disoriented" and unanimously requested that he be replaced. According to the Times, the witness not only disagreed with the board's description of Walpin's behavior at the meeting as "disoriented," as the witness described the meeting as "contentious" because Walpin was scolding the board for not being aggressive enough in its duty to protect tax dollars from fraud, but the witness also argued that the board's complaint about Walpin telecommuting from his home in New York was not grounds for dismissal since the necessary board members had agreed that Walpin could telecommute without any objections from other board members when they had the opportunity to do so.

In the June 23 article, "Getting to the Bottom of the AmeriCorps IG Firing," Byron York of the Washington Examiner wrote that a Republican member of the board which requested that Walpin be replaced conceded that the board members were not sure whether there was sufficient reason to fire him. York: "But the corporation has never said the board unanimously supported the way in which Walpin was fired. And indeed, a long discussion with a Republican member of the board suggests that while there was, in fact, agreement on firing Walpin, it's not clear whether there was sufficient cause to do it. Nor is it clear why the White House decided to lower the boom in a way that defied the law governing how inspectors general can be fired." Regarding the telecommuting issue, York recounts that, according to his source, "the board did not tell Walpin he couldn't telecommute."

In the June 14 article, "Gerald Walpin Speaks: The Inside Story of the AmeriCorps Firing," Byron York of the Washington Examiner presented the theory that Brown and the Corporation for National and Community Service, were under pressure to reach a quick settlement with Mayor Johnson that would remove his suspension so that the city of Sacramento would not be barred from receiving millions of dollars in federal stimulus money because of its mayor's history.

 

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Publication Logo
The San Francisco Chronicle (California)

June 23, 2009 Tuesday
FINAL Edition

Bad times for whistle-blowers

BYLINE: Debra J. Saunders

SECTION: Op-Ed; DEBRA J. SAUNDERS; Pg. A11

As recent AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin tells the story, when a White House aide called him on June 10, Walpin thought the administration was calling him to enlist his support - as a prominent Republican member of the New York bar - for the confirmation of Sonya Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, Special Counsel to the President Norm Eisen informed Walpin that President Obama wanted Walpin out of his job.

Now the question is why Obama let him go. Walpin's defenders believe Obama fired him because Walpin was a successful whistle-blower, who blew the whistle on the president's friends and pet causes.

In 2008, the Corporation for National and Community Service asked Walpin to check out St. HOPE, a Sacramento nonprofit run by former NBA star Kevin Johnson, who was subsequently elected mayor of Sacramento. Walpin's office found that AmeriCorps members had misused $847,673 in federal grant funds between 2004 and 2007 and that AmeriCorps hires had been misused to "personally benefit Johnson, including driving him to personal appointments, washing his car and running personal errands" and campaigning in a school board election.

Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown later announced a legal settlement that called for Johnson, St. HOPE itself and a former St. HOPE executive to repay taxpayers more than $400,000 the corporation had received in grants. On June 4, Walpin issued another report, this one questioning $16 million in awards by the Research Foundation of the City University of New York. As Walpin explained in a letter to CUNY, "The program doesn't work because it adds no service to the community which is not already provided by the Fellows program. Therefore, taxpayers are not getting their money's worth."

Clearly Walpin is a stickler. "There are people in our country who badly need the money for these community service benefits," he told me over the phone.

And clearly his attitude rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Brown complained that Walpin was not content to conduct an unbiased investigation into Mayor Johnson and St. HOPE, but instead "sought to act as the investigator, advocate, judge, jury and town crier."

According to Eisen, Walpin's review - which led to his dismissal - was "unanimously requested" by a bipartisan board, after a May meeting at which Walpin appeared "confused, disoriented" and "unable to answer questions."

"Is he being fired for doing his job?" asked Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista San Diego County, ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. To Issa, this episode is reminiscent of the Bush firings of U.S. attorneys - whom Bush had a right to fire, as they served at the pleasure of the president, but not a right to smear their reputations.

Issa also is concerned that the firing of Walpin may violate the Inspectors General Reform Act, which says, "The President shall communicate in writing the reasons for any such removal or transfer to both Houses of Congress, not later than 30 days before the removal or transfer." The letter Obama sent was incredibly vague - only later did the administration call into question Walpin's possession of his marbles - and denied Congress the opportunity to respond first.

The icing on this cake: Obama was a co-sponsor of the bill that included the above language to guard the independence of inspectors general from partisan pressure.

Was Walpin right about CUNY? I have no idea. But he must have been right about St. HOPE, as the Sacto nonprofit and its execs promised to pay back almost half the money.

As Walpin told me, when any group misuses AmeriCorps money for a political campaign or to get a free car wash, "That's like stealing a welfare check from a single mother." And Obamaland thinks he's confused.
 

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In the June 22 article "Walpin-gate Opens Wider; FBI Investigation Embarrasses the White House," the Washington Times reports writes that "The FBI has opened an investigation into a Sacramento program formerly run by a close ally of President Obama's, giving credence to the IG's work."

The article also recounts that Walpin and the acting U.S. attorney involved in the case, Lawrence Brown, had clashed because Walpin had complained that Brown "had negotiated far too lenient a settlement of the charges against Mayor Johnson and St. Hope." The White House had cited a complaint by Brown against Walpin as part of its justification for firing the inspector general. But the White House "fired Mr. Walpin long before the relevant committee would have finished its assessment of the U.S. attorney's complaint."

 
The Washington Times

June 22, 2009 Monday

Walpin-gate opens wider;
FBI investigation embarrasses the White House

BYLINE: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SECTION: EDITORIALS; A20

President Obama's excuses for firing AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin look weaker every day. The FBI has opened an investigation into a Sacramento program formerly run by a close ally of President Obama's, giving credence to the IG's work.

The president fired Mr. Walpin June 11 after Mr. Walpin filed two reports critical of Obama friends. The highest-profile of the two reports focused on misuse of funds at Sacramento's St. Hope Academy, then run by former NBA star Kevin Johnson before Mr. Johnson was elected Sacramento's mayor in November. Mr. Johnson was a frequent stump speaker for Mr. Obama
during last year's campaign and has claimed in TV interviews to be particularly good friends with first lady Michelle Obama.
The inspector general detailed numerous irregularities in St. Hope's use of AmeriCorps funds, including AmeriCorps grantees being used to wash Mr. Johnson's car. Mr. Walpin complained vociferously, though, that acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence G. Brown had negotiated far too lenient a settlement of the charges against Mayor Johnson and St. Hope.

In turn, the U.S. attorney filed a complaint against Mr. Walpin, charging him with unethical behavior throughout the investigation. The White House fired Mr. Walpin long before the relevant committee would have finished its assessment of the U.S. attorney's complaint.

As The Washington Times reported in a previous editorial, U.S. Attorney Brown's complaint included at least two major, easily discernible errors of fact. Many other complaints against Mr. Walpin, both by Mr. Brown and by other AmeriCorps officials, were strangely petty in nature.

Now here is where the story gets really interesting. On the very same day that the president fired Mr. Walpin, St. Hope's executive director, Rick Maya, left his job at St. Hope. He did not go quietly. His resignation letter charged Mr. Johnson and several St. Hope board members with numerous ethical violations. Most explosively, he charged that a board member improperly deleted e-mails of Mr. Johnson's that already were under a federal subpoena.

Suddenly, the problems at St. Hope begin to look as severe as Mr. Walpin had charged rather than being minor infractions.

On Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee reported that Mr. Maya's allegations have been deemed serious enough that the FBI is investigating potential obstruction of justice at St. Hope. In that light, the firing of Mr. Walpin, who properly blew the whistle on mismanagement and possible corruption, looks ill-considered.

Early last week, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, publicly questioned the White House handling of the firing, as did Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican. On Thursday, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, Wyoming Republican, sent a strongly worded letter to the White House indicating serious reservations about whether the administration had abided by the laws governing inspectors general.

It also was learned last week that the White House is involved in major disputes with two other inspectors general who were poking around the administration's business, including Neil M. Barofsky, whose job is to serve as watchdog for spending the $787 billion in controversial economic bailout funds.

All of this suggests that the purported White House mistreatment of independent inspectors general is a scandal that might have real legs. As well it should.

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The Washington Times

June 16, 2009 Tuesday

Fired Bush-era IG advised on Sotomayor;
Walpin has been supporter since at least '98

BYLINE: By Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SECTION: NATION; A10

President Obama fired a Bush-era inspector general last week despite the administration's use of the former prosecutor as an adviser in the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Gerald Walpin, a 2006 Bush appointee who reviewed grants awarded by AmeriCorps and other national service programs, said he assumed the telephone call he received Thursday evening from White House counsel Norman L. Eisen was for another chat about Judge Sotomayor. To his shock, the call instead was a telephonic pink slip.

"The White House had been calling me on several occasions to help with the Sonia Sotomayor nomination, so I thought it was related to that," Mr. Walpin said. His termination "came out of the blue."

Mr. Walpin, a self-described conservative, nonetheless has been a strong supporter of Judge Sotomayor since at least 1998, when he publicly endorsed her successful nomination by President Clinton to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

Mr. Walpin, 77, is a former federal prosecutor widely known in New York legal circles. Judge Sotomayor served as a U.S. District Court judge in New York from 1992 to 1998.

"I did tell Judge Sotomayor that I'd be happy to be of whatever help I could be again," Mr. Walpin said. "I still plan to support her because I think she's a fine nominee."

Despite his sudden firing, he said he will continue to work with the White House on the judge's nomination if asked.

The administration said it fired Mr. Walpin because the president had lost confidence in him. He is the only one of 69 statutory inspector generals (IGs) that has been fired.

Mr. Walpin had only weeks earlier submitted two reports highly critical of the agency he was charged to oversee; the Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent agency of the federal government.

One of the reports dealt with the agency's handling of a case involving suspicions of misuse of federal grant money by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA basketball star and an Obama supporter.

Mr. Walpin said he has "absolutely" no doubt that his firing was retaliation for his sharp criticism of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and for clashes with its Obama-appointed chairman, Alan Solomont, a Democrat.

"I have not heard that [Mr. Obama] has attempted to terminate any other IG," he said. "It is only an IG, as I know, that has issued two reports critical of an agency now headed by somebody he appointed."

Yet Mr. Solomont isn't the only official inside or outside CNCS to question Mr. Walpin's professional tactics, as Stephen Goldsmith, a Republican and agency's vice chairman, has backed the president's decision to fire Mr. Walpin.

Sacramento's Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence G. Brown also has sharply criticized Mr. Walpin's handling of his investigation of Mr. Johnson and a nonprofit group he ran.

The highly publicized case accused St. Hope Academy - founded by Mr. Johnson - of mishandling some of the $850,000 it received in CNCS grants, which came out during the Sacramento mayoral race. The report said Mr. Johnson used grants to pay volunteers to engage in school board political activities and to run personal errands for Mr. Johnson.

St. Hope Academy has promised to repay about half of the money.

Mr. Brown accused Mr. Walpin of overstating conclusions in his investigation, withholding information to the U.S. attorney's office and for publicizing the case in the press when he should have keep matters confidential.

But the Senate Finance Committee's top Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, has denounced Mr. Walpin's termination and praised him for identifying millions of dollars in wasted or misspent grants.

"It appears he had been doing his job," the senator said. "We cannot afford to have inspector general independence threatened."

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The Washington Times

June 15, 2009 Monday

Walpin-gate; Obama fires an IG

BYLINE: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SECTION: EDITORIALS; A20

Congress ought to open an investigation, New York Times editorialists should be in a state of apoplexy, and MSNBC hosts ought to be frothing at the mouth. Without appropriate documentation or good reason, President Obama has fired a federal investigator who was on the case against a political ally of the president's. Mr. Obama's move has the stench of scandal.

On June 11, Mr. Obama fired Gerald Walpin, inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. He offered no public reason for doing so other than that he "no longer" had "the fullest confidence" in Mr. Walpin. Sen. Charles E. Grassley,
Iowa Republican, is rightly questioning the firing and the explanation for it.

The senator noted that the Inspector General Reform Act requires the president to "communicate in writing ... the reasons for any such removal" Losing one's "fullest confidence" hardly qualifies as a justifiable reason. The Senate report language attached to the act explains: "The requirement to notify the Congress in advance of the reasons for the removal should serve to ensure that Inspectors General are not removed for political reasons."

Yet, as Associated Press noted, "Obama's move follows an investigation by IG Gerald Walpin finding misuse of federal grants by a nonprofit education group led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is an Obama supporter and former NBA basketball star." Further, "The IG found that Johnson ... had used Americorps grants to pay volunteers to engage in school-board political activities, run personal errands for Johnson and even wash his car"

Sacramento U.S. Attorney Larry Brown criticized Mr. Walpin for publicly announcing the investigation rather than more quietly cooperating with federal prosecutors. Clearly, though, there was merit to Mr. Walpin's charges: Mr. Brown's office reached a settlement ordering the nonprofit organization to repay half of the $850,000 in grant money it received - with $72,836.50 of that repayment coming from Mr. Johnson's own pocket.

Mr. Grassley said, "There have been no negative findings against Mr. Walpin by the Integrity Committee of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, and [Mr. Walpin] has identified millions of dollars in Americorps funds either wasted outright or spent in violation of established guidelines. In other words, it appears he has been doing his job. We cannot afford to have Inspector General independence threatened." We concur.

It is highly unusual and very suspicious when an IG is summarily fired, especially when political entanglements are involved. There will be much more to report in coming days on this White House action, which was heavy-handed and almost certainly unethical.

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 walpin egregious stuff

http://www.sacbee.com/ourregion/story/1264412.html

Kevin Johnson, St. HOPE suspended from receiving federal funds
ShareThis
By Terri Hardy, Dorothy Korber and Mary Lynne Vellinga
thardy@sacbee.com
Published: Thursday, Sep. 25, 2008 - 12:00 am | Page 19A
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 25, 2008 - 12:26 am

In a rare move, mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson and at least part of his St. HOPE organization have been barred from receiving federal money until an investigation into the use of funds for its volunteer program is completed.

Johnson, St. HOPE Academy and former top executive Dana Gonzalez on Wednesday were placed on the governmentwide "excluded parties" list, a database that informs federal agencies across the nation of people and programs no longer allowed to receive federal grants or contracts.

Although federal officials would not comment on the suspension or the investigation of Johnson's youth volunteer organization, Hood Corps, a spokesman previously said suspension is rarely invoked.

"If we find really egregious stuff and we want to stop the bleeding, we seek immediate suspension," William O. Hillburg, a spokesman for the inspector general's office conducting the investigation, told The Bee earlier when explaining the process.

Individuals suspended cannot receive federal funding personally and suspension also prevents them from voting or acting on federally funded programs that come before them as employees or board members, Hillburg said.

In an e-mail response Wednesday, Johnson didn't address the suspension. Instead, he said: "From day one we have fully cooperated with the review by the federal government. We will continue to do so until the investigation is completed."

Gonzalez, St. HOPE's director of new site and school development, left the organization in August, according to Rick Maya, St. HOPE's executive director.

Incumbent Mayor Heather Fargo, facing Johnson in a runoff next month, declined comment on the federal action.

However, Johnson campaign manager Steve Maviglio suggested the timing of the suspension, made by federal officials in Washington, was politically motivated.

"It's politically conspicuous" that it came "days before voting begins," he said.

The election is Nov. 4, but absentee voting begins Oct. 6.

The financial ramifications of the suspension on the diverse operations under the St. HOPE banner, including its public schools, were unclear. Historically, such an action has been wide-reaching, Hillburg said, including suspension of all federal funding, ranging from student lunch subsidies to redevelopment money, from student loans to federally backed mortgages.

St. HOPE schools locally, including Sacramento Charter High School and PS 7, last year received more than $1.3 million in federal dollars.

Maya, however, said he does not believe the suspension will have much impact on the organization.

"St. HOPE Academy ... does not currently receive any federal funds," Maya said.

In addition, he said, "It will have no effect on St. HOPE public schools, it will have no effect on St. HOPE Development Co., and it will have no effect on St. HOPE Leadership Academy in Harlem, because these are separate entities."

Maya said the federal government has not discussed the scope of the suspension with St. HOPE, nor did it notify St. HOPE of its action.

Maria Lopez, spokeswoman for the Sacramento City Unified School District, said the district will seek clarification from St. HOPE about whether the suspension will affect its charter schools.

Lopez pointed out that the district does not provide financial support for independent charters.

"Charters have an obligation to remain fiscally solvent," she said.

St. HOPE Public Schools has filed separate tax forms from the other St. HOPE organizations since 2003, but the schools and the academy share the same top leader. Kevin Johnson was listed as president of St. HOPE Academy on the fiscal year 2007 nonprofit tax forms filed in May and as CEO of St. HOPE schools on forms filed in February. In recent months, Maya has served as spokesman for the schools and the rest of the local St. HOPE organization.

Maya said Johnson stepped down in January as chairman and chief executive of St. HOPE public schools and St. HOPE Development Co., which created the 40 Acres complex in Oak Park.

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In the June 17 article, "Walpin-gates 'Egregious Stuff'; There's Still No Cause for Obama Firing of an IG," the Washington Times informs viewers that Walpin and several of his staff had submitted an 18-page rebuttal to Brown's accusations. Regarding Brown's complaint that Walpin had given information to the media before delivering the same information to Brown's office, the Times recounts Walpin's side of the story: "The U.S. Attorney's Office claims it only learned of developments in the investigation through news articles inspired by the inspector general. That's odd. The U.S. Attorney's Office actually submitted, as requested by Mr. Walpin's team, a letter necessary for the action against Mayor Johnson. So that claim is false, too."

 

The Washington Times

June 17, 2009 Wednesday

Walpin-gate's 'egregious stuff';
There's still no cause for Obama's firing of an IG

BYLINE: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SECTION: EDITORIALS; A20

Now it appears that the White House's ace in the hole is actually a joker. News organizations have tied the dismissal of Inspector General Gerald Walpin to a flap over Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's misuse of AmeriCorps funds. The acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento, Lawrence G. Brown, filed a complaint against Mr. Walpin involving that same investigation. The White House seems to think the U.S. attorney's complaint makes Mr. Walpin look bad and thus excuses the firing.

One major problem: the U.S. attorney's complaint has more holes in it than a 10-year-old sock.

The complaint claims that the inspector general repeatedly failed to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's office and improperly used press releases to try the case against Mayor Johnson through the media. Mr. Johnson is a political ally of Mr. Obama's and reportedly a personal friend of first lady Michelle Obama.

In an 18-page response co-signed by five members of the inspector-general staff, Mr. Walpin made mincemeat of Mr. Brown's complaint.

Consider one of Mr. Brown's examples of Mr. Walpin's supposed lack of professionalism, which is hardly the most substantive of grievances. "Not only was it extremely questionable for Mr. Walpin to issue a press release," the acting U.S. attorney wrote about a Sept. 25, 2008, release, "it contained statements such as: 'If we find really egregious stuff and we want to stop the bleeding, we seek immediate suspension.' "

Mr. Walpin's press release did not use the words "egregious" and "stuff" or the phrase "stop the bleeding." That grievance was entirely contrived.

The U.S. Attorney's Office claims it only learned of developments in the investigation through news articles inspired by the inspector general. That's odd. The U.S. Attorney's Office actually submitted, as requested by Mr. Walpin's team, a letter necessary for the action against Mayor Johnson. So that claim is false, too.

The rest of Mr. Brown's grievances are equally niggling.

What remains is that the president fired an independent, apolitical inspector general in response to his filing accurate reports that embarrassed President Obama's allies. Mr. Walpin, a 77-year-old former federal prosecutor with a sterling reputation, sounded baffled when we spoke to him on Saturday.

"I would never have given a thought to the possibility that a president would interfere with the independent reporting by an inspector general by seeking to terminate him. That is so contrary to the purpose of the Inspectors General [Reform] Act that I thought there was no way in any realistic sense that could happen," he told The Washington Times.

Mr. Obama was a co-sponsor of that IG reform act when he was in the Senate. But that was then; this is now. Today, the independence of government inspectors seems to matter less than giving cover to the president's political pals.

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 http://a.abcnews.go.com/images/Politics/Brown_letter_to_Kenneth_Kaiser.pdf

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In the June 18 article, "A Witness to Walpin-gate; An Eye Witness Contradicts the White House," the Washington Times cites an anonymous witness to the infamous May 20 meeting between Walpin and the bipartisan Board which claimed Walpin was "disoriented" and requested that he be replaced. According to the Times, the witness not only disagreed with the board's description of Walpin's behavior at the meeting, as the witness described the meeting as "contentious" because Walpin was scolding the board for its performance, but the witness also argued that the board's complaint about Walpin telecommuting from his home in New  York was also not grounds for dismissal since the necessary board members had agreed that Walpin could telecommute without any objections from other board members when they had the opportunity to do so.

 

 The Washington Times

June 18, 2009 Thursday

A witness to Walpin-gate;
An eye witness contradicts the White House

BYLINE: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SECTION: EDITORIALS; A20

The White House arguments for firing Inspector General Gerald Walpin are baseless, a witness told us.

What follows is an exclusive eye witness rebuttal to Obama administration claims. This comes on top of a different witness account reported by the Washington Examiner yesterday.

The White House claims Inspector General Gerald Walpin was effectively away without leave from his Washington office and that he was so "disoriented" and "confused" at a May 20 meeting that it made officials "question his capacity to serve." A witness told The Washington Times both charges are baseless.

By all accounts, the May 20 meeting was contentious. Mr. Walpin chastised the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service for failing to exercise oversight over AmeriCorps grants. Our witness, a staff member, said the board was hostile and rude. He said the board repeatedly interrupted Mr. Walpin and peppered him with questions on multiple issues. He confirmed Mr. Walpin's account that the board excused Mr. Walpin for 15 minutes and that when Mr. Walpin returned to find his notepapers out of order, the board refused to give him time to get them straight.

Mr. Walpin says he had been working around the clock and was becoming ill at the meeting. Still, any confusion, the witness said, stemmed from the board's hectoring behavior. Besides, any charge that "disorientation" is enough to "question" an independent official's "capacity to serve" should rest on more than one incident. No one has claimed that Mr. Walpin has shown any confusion before or since that meeting.

The second allegation is also groundless. Mr. Walpin was not "absent from the Corporation's headquarters ... over the objections of the Corporation's Board," as the White House claims Instead, he had specifically cleared an arrangement to telecommute (from New York to the District office) with the agency's general counsel and its acting chief executive officer. Our witness was present at the meeting when the arrangement was approved.

Mr. Walpin says he cleared the arrangement with the board's chairman, vice chairman and a third board member. Our witness was not present at that meeting but says he was present at more than one subsequent meeting of the full board during which Mr. Walpin mentioned his telecommuting arrangement without a single objection raised from the board.

The witness confirms that Mr. Walpin had made clear the telecommuting was a test run from January through June which was to be reviewed at the end of June to see if anybody found the system wasn't working. The witness said Mr. Walpin was extremely accessible at all times when working from New York or when on the road. If the inspector general's telecommuting was a problem, there was an opportunity to address the issue and curtail the problem at a review scheduled just three weeks hence, rather than treating the arrangement as a fireable offense.

The fact remains that an inspector general does not serve at the president's pleasure but can be removed only for a specified just cause. No legitimate cause has been given for the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin. Why is the Obama administration vilifying a watchdog, whose only offense is barking at the misdeeds of the president's friends?

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In the June 24 article, "Lieberman Overlooks Walpin-gate; Public Hearings are Needed on IG Firing," the Washington Times also recounts Walpin's side of the story as a rebuttal to Brown's charge that information was withheld from him by the inspector general: "On the withholding of certain memos, it turns out that the supposed 'withholding' occurred at a meeting Mr. Walpin did not attend - but at which, we are told, his staff discussed with other investigators the memos in question. So it wasn't as if they, much less Mr. Walpin, were deliberately trying to conceal anything."

The Washington Times

June 24, 2009 Wednesday

Lieberman overlooks Walpingate;
Public hearings are needed on IG firing

BYLINE: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SECTION: EDITORIALS; A20

Say it ain't so, Joe. Sen. Joe Lieberman seems to be punting away his duty to protect the independence of federal inspectors general. Mr. Lieberman is a man of integrity who takes pride in his independence. That's why it is disappointing that he has been so quick to accept the White House excuses for firing AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin and to dismiss complaints about White House treatment of two other IGs who questioned administration conduct.

Mr. Lieberman has jurisdiction over the issue as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. On Thursday, he issued this statement, prematurely: "There is now general agreement the administration has followed both the spirit and the letter of the law with respect to notice. Through two letters and oral briefings, the White House has communicated a number of concerns with Mr. Walpin's conduct as Inspector General."

Surely the senator is not so credulous. The first White House letter about the firing merely asserted a loss of presidential confidence in Mr. Walpin. The belated second letter cited an exceedingly vague series of "troubling and inappropriate conduct" - while the White House itself verged on improper age discrimination by claiming the 77-year-old Mr. Walpin was "disoriented" and "confused" at a May 20 meeting. It also cited an allegation that Mr. Walpin improperly withheld relevant information concerning his investigation into misuse of funds by Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Kevin Johnson, a pal of President Obama's.

If Mr. Lieberman reviews all the charges, he will find them seriously lacking.

If purported confusion at one meeting on May 20 were such an issue, why is there no other example of Mr. Walpin's supposed incapacity either before or since? If officials were worried about his health, why did nobody follow up in the weeks after that meeting to see if any underlying medical issue existed - or exhibit the decency of later ascertaining whether the man was OK?

On the withholding of certain memos, it turns out that the supposed "withholding" occurred at a meeting Mr. Walpin did not attend - but at which, we are told, his staff discussed with other investigators the memos in question. So it wasn't as if they, much less Mr. Walpin, were deliberately trying to conceal anything.

It is true that the White House acted only after the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service unanimously recommended, after the May 20 meeting, that Mr. Walpin be relieved. That recommendation isn't surprising. Mr. Walpin had excoriated the board for poor oversight of AmeriCorps. When the constable says the security guard was asleep on his watch, the guard obviously resents it.

Inspectors general are quasi-independent watchdogs who are supposed to be removed only for solid reasons. The Washington Times has reviewed volumes of documents on the matter, and we haven't found a legitimate justification for the firing.

Mr. Lieberman's spokesman told us committee staff will continue to review the matter. Good. Mr. Lieberman personally ought to interview Mr. Walpin. A public hearing should probe the highly unusual firing of this man, who spent decades building a reputation for probity and good judgment.

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In the June 14 article, "Gerald Walpin Speaks: The Inside Story of the AmeriCorps Firing," Byron York of the Washington Examiner presents the theory that Brown and the Corporation were under pressure to reach a quick settlement with Johnson that would remove his suspension so that the city of Sacramento would not be barred from receiving millions of dollars in federal stimulus mone.

 

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Gerald-Walpin-speaks-the-inside-story-of-the-AmeriCorps-firing-48030697.html

Gerald Walpin speaks: The inside story of the AmeriCorps firing
By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
06/14/09 7:00 PM EDT

Dispute that resulted in firing involved stimulus money

ALSO: See UPDATE below; Grassley protests, demands information, including any role of First Lady

NEW: House Republicans raise questions about Walpin firing

AND: Will Democrats cover up the AmeriCorps Mess?

AND: First Democrat questions Obama over AmeriCorps IG firing

The White House's decision to fire AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin came amid politically-charged tensions inside the Corporation for National and Community Service, the organization that runs AmeriCorps.  Top executives at the Corporation, Walpin explained in an hour-long interview Saturday, were unhappy with his investigation into the misuse of AmeriCorps funds by Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star who is now mayor of Sacramento, California and a prominent supporter of President Obama. Walpin's investigation also sparked conflict with the acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento amid fears that the probe -- which could have resulted in Johnson being barred from ever winning another federal grant -- might stand in the way of the city receiving its part of billions of dollars in federal stimulus money.  After weeks of standoff, Walpin, whose position as inspector general is supposed to be protected from influence by political appointees and the White
House, was fired.

Walpin learned his fate Wednesday night.  He was driving to an event in upstate New York when he received a call from Norman Eisen, the Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform.  "He said, 'Mr. Walpin, the president wants me to tell you that he really appreciates your service, but it's time to move on,'" Walpin recalls.  "Eisen said, 'You can either resign, or I'll tell you that we'll have to terminate you.'"

At that moment, Walpin says, he had finished not only a report on the Sacramento probe but also an investigation into extensive misuse of AmeriCorps money by the City University of New York, which is AmeriCorps' biggest program.  Walpin says he told Eisen that, given those two investigations, neither of which was well-received by top Corporation management, the timing of his firing seemed "very interesting."  According to Walpin, Eisen said it was "pure coincidence."  When Walpin asked for some time to consider what to do, Eisen gave him one hour. "Then he called back in 45 minutes and asked for my response," Walpin recalls.

The method of Walpin's firing could be a violation of the 2008 Inspectors General Reform Act, which requires the president to give Congress 30 days' notice, plus an explanation of cause, before firing an inspector general.  Then-Sen. Barack Obama was a co-sponsor of that legislation. In the case of Walpin, Eisen's efforts to force Walpin to resign could be seen as an effort to push Walpin out of his job so that the White House would not have to go through the 30-day process or give a reason for its action.  When Walpin refused to quit, the White House informed Congress and began the 30-day countdown.

Eisen's phone call came after months of increasing conflict inside the Corporation for National and Community Service.  "We issued two reports that the management of the Corporation and the board of directors didn’t like, because they criticized what the board was doing," Walpin recalls.  There is no question that Walpin discovered misuse of federal money in Kevin Johnson's program, known as St. HOPE, and at City University of New York.  But as a result of those investigations, relations between Walpin and top executives became frosty, and he says they cut him out of Corporation business that should normally include the inspector general.

The heart of the matter is a dispute that began last year over Walpin's recommendation that Johnson and St. HOPE be barred from receiving and using federal grant money.  The process is known as "suspension and debarment," meaning that Johnson would be suspended from receiving federal funds under any current arrangement and might ultimately be barred from receiving any such funds in the future.  "The whole purpose of suspension and debarment," Walpin says, "is to say that somebody who was involved in the misuse of government funds in the past should not be trusted with federal funds in the future."

In the course of his investigation, Walpin found Johnson and St. HOPE had failed to use the federal money they received for the purposes specified in the grant and had also used federally-funded AmeriCorps staff for, among other things, "driving [Johnson] to personal appointments, washing his car, and running personal errands." Walpin came to the conclusion that Johnson and St. HOPE should be subject to suspension and debarment.  But it was not Walpin's decision to make; there is another official at the Corporation whose job it is to make that call.  In September 2008, after reviewing Walpin's evidence, the official decided to order a suspension, with the distinct possibility that it would lead to a permanent debarment.

That was during the Sacramento mayoral campaign, and the suspension quickly became a matter of controversy. Johnson's critics raised the possibility that, as mayor, the suspension would mean the city could not receive federal funds.  Johnson dismissed the matter.  "That's absurd," he told the Sacramento Bee.  "As mayor, I'm going to go out there and shake down as many resources as I can for Sacramento."

But the issue did not go away after Johnson defeated the incumbent mayor and took office.  It became far more pressing in late January, when Congress passed the $787 billion stimulus bill and Sacramento officials hoped that millions of federal dollars would soon arrive. Johnson's suspension seemed like an insurmountable obstacle to getting all that money. On March 21, the Sacramento Bee reported that, "The city of Sacramento likely is barred from getting federal money -- including tens of millions the city is expecting from the new stimulus package -- because Mayor Kevin Johnson is on a list of individuals forbidden from receiving federal funds, according to a leading attorney the city commissioned to look into the issue." The issue was explosive. What if there were all that federal money raining down and Sacramento couldn't get any because its mayor had been found to have misused federal money in the past?

As this was happening, the matter was also under consideration by the local U.S. attorney's office after Walpin referred the matter to the office for a criminal inquiry. Since January of this year, the office has been headed by an acting U.S. attorney, Lawrence Brown, a career prosecutor who took over after the departure of the previous, Bush-appointed U.S. attorney.  The office decided not to pursue criminal charges against Johnson, but also entered into settlement talks with Johnson and St. HOPE.  What resulted was, according to Walpin, highly unusual.

Settlement talks would normally cover the issue of whether Johnson would be required to give the misused federal funds back to the government.  But amid the frenzy surrounding the possible denial of federal stimulus funds, Brown wanted to negotiate not only some sort of repayment scheme but also an end to Johnson's suspension.  Walpin learned about that during a March telephone conversation with Brown.  "He said he wanted to settle," Walpin recalls, "and he said that lifting the suspension had to be part of it because that was the 800-pound gorilla in the way of a settlement."

Walpin was adamantly opposed to a lifting of the suspension; after all, he had recommended that Johnson not only be suspended but be barred for receiving future federal funds.  Walpin says that after that, he was cut out of the settlement talks; Brown worked directly with top officials of the Corporation, who seemed eager to work out a deal in a case involving a high-profile Obama supporter and lots of stimulus money.  (The Corporation is now headed by Alan Solomont, a philanthropist and Democratic fundraiser appointed by President Obama.)

Together, Brown and the top Corporation brass negotiated a deal.  Johnson and St. HOPE would pay back about half of the $850,000 in AmeriCorps grant money it had received, and the suspension against Johnson would be lifted.

Walpin was very unhappy.  First of all, he said it was a terrible deal for the U.S. government, because St. HOPE was essentially insolvent and would never pay the money back.  Second, he felt lifting Johnson's suspension would dilute the effectiveness of future investigations; why should grant recipients worry about their misconduct if any sanctions can be so easily lifted?  In the end, Johnson was not suspended, not debarred, and was probably not going to pay the vast majority of the money back.

Walpin told the Corporation's board of directors of his opinion.  He told other officials.  And he sent a report to Congress.  "I was bringing Congress in to try to get its assistance in putting a spotlight on this," he says.

Walpin's actions undoubtedly angered top officials at the Corporation, and most likely at the White House as well.  It would not be long before he was summarily dismissed.  But he has no regrets.  Whatever happens, he wrote recently, he is proud that he "refused to go along with the U.S. attorney's office and the Corporation in bowing to the media and political pressure that resulted in this hasty settlement, contrary to the interests of the United States government."

For background on the Walpin firing, read my earlier story here.

UPDATE: Grassley protests, demands information, including any role of First Lady

Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, a longtime champion of inspectors general, has sent a letter to Alan Solomont, head of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps.  Describing Walpin's work as "legitimate" and "meritorious," Grassley expressed concern that Walpin was fired in part for complaining to Congress about interference in the St. HOPE probe by the top management of the Corporation.  "I am very concerned about the appearance that the IG’s communication with my office about this matter may have contributed to his removal," Grassley wrote to Solomont.  "Inspectors General have a statutory duty to report to Congress.  Intimidation or retaliation against those who freely communicate their concerns to Members of the House and Senate cannot be tolerated.  This is especially true when such concerns are as legitimate and meritorious as Mr. Walpin’s appear to be."

Saying that "it is vital that Congress obtain a full understanding of the role that you and your colleagues at [the Corporation] played in these matters," Grassley asked Solomont to provide all records, email, documents, and other communications relating to Walpin's firing.  He specifically asked for Corporation records involving contacts with the U.S. attorney's office, the White House, and the Office of the First Lady.  "No records related to these matters shall be destroyed or otherwise made inaccessible to Congress," Grassley wrote.  For the full text of Grassley's letter, see below.

Dear Mr. Solomont:

As a senior member of the United States Senate and as the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance (Committee), it is my duty under the Constitution to conduct oversight into the actions of the executive branch, including the activities of the Corporation for National and Community Service (Corporation).  In this capacity, I must ensure that the Corporation properly fulfills its mission of addressing a critical community need as the nation’s largest grantor supporting service and volunteering organization, as well as maintaining adequate accountability of millions of dollars in Federal funds.

An issue was recently brought to my attention by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), which concerns the misuse of Federal grant funding by St. HOPE Academy, a grantee of the Corporation.  The investigation conducted by the OIG found evidence of the misuse of $850,000 of Federal grant funds provided to St. HOPE Academy from 2004 to 2007.  It was reported that this particular investigation was contentious.  Furthermore, according to some recent reports this investigation may have been a contributing factor in the decision to remove Inspector General Gerald Walpin.  I am very concerned about the appearance that the IG’s communication with my office about this matter may have contributed to his removal.  Inspectors General have a statutory duty to report to Congress.  Intimidation or retaliation against those who freely communicate their concerns to Members of the House and Senate cannot be tolerated.  This is especially true when such concerns are as
legitimate and meritorious as Mr. Walpin’s appear to be.

In September 2008, after reviewing the facts that the OIG investigation presented, the Corporation’s Debarment and Suspension Official (Official) determined that the grantee’s two principals, Kevin Johnson and Dana Gonzalez were responsible for six acts of diverting grant funds to non-grant purposes, and found that “immediate action is necessary to protect the public interest.” In total about $850,000 was misused.

As a result, the OIG requested that the Official suspend all future Federal grant funding to both St. HOPE Academy and Kevin Johnson and Dana Gonzales individually.  The Official ultimately suspended St. HOPE Academy and its principals “from participating in Federal procurement and non procurement programs and activities.”  None of the respondents exercised their right to submit facts objecting to the suspension.

On April 9, 2009, a settlement lifting the suspension was executed by the Corporation’s General Counsel (GC), the designated Corporation Official, and the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California (USAO).  For reasons that I do not yet understand, the OIG was excluded from this proceeding and the settlement lifting the suspension, was done in complete disregard of the OIG’s findings, as well as the previous determination of wrong doing identified in the Notice of Suspension.  Perhaps the settlement agreement was reached without any input from the OIG, because less than half of what was misused by the Corporation grantees is being returned to the taxpayer and the OIG would not have agreed to this arrangement.  In fact, an argument can be made that not even half of the misused funds is being returned, because the settlement does not require that payment in full be made.  Rather the settlement places the grantees on a type of payment
plan that will occur over a decade; to date less than 10% of the misused money has been recovered.

Not only did the evidence demonstrate that Johnson, Gonzalez, and St. HOPE misused about $850,000 in Federal grant funds, but they also acknowledged that they did not document the expenditures as required.  And yet, Mr. Johnson continues to have access to Federal funds through the city of Sacramento, primarily because the settlement agreement ignored the Suspension and Debarment procedures {(2C.F.R §§180.700(b), 180.800 (a)(4),(b)} that the Federal Government put into place in order to prevent such grant misuse.  These procedures are intended to protect Federal agencies by making the grantee’s accountable for the misuse of Federal funds under their control.  Based upon the documents in my possession, it seems that the facts of this investigation were substantially disregarded and the blatant waste of federal taxpayer dollars were handled with little more than a slap on the wrist.  In the St. HOPE matter, Mr. Johnson, rather than paying for legitimate
expenses under the program, he used the AmeriCorps members, paid for with taxpayers’ hard-earned money, to engage in school-board political activities, run personal errands, and wash his car.  Now, and because of the favorable settlement, Mr. Johnson can have access to millions of taxpayer dollars as the mayor of Sacramento. 

After conducting the investigation into the grant fund misuse and then referring the case to the USAO, the OIG was excluded during the settlement arrangement.  The OIG subsequently objected to the settlement arrangement by the USAO for obvious reasons.  Moreover, according to documents in my possession, St. HOPE Board members ignored a Federal subpoena and erased Mr. Johnson’s emails during the course of investigation.  This was discovered after Mr. Johnson’s replacement as Executive Director of St. HOPE, Rick Maya, resigned on the same date of the Settlement Agreement because of various improprieties and potential obstruction of justice issues by St. HOPE Board Members.

In light of the removal of the Inspector General, it is vital that Congress obtain a full understanding of the role that you and your colleagues at CNCS played in these matters.  Accordingly, please provide any and all records, email, memoranda, documents, communications, or other information, whether in draft or final form, related to:

1) the performance of Gerald Walpin as Inspector General;
2) the removal of Gerald Walpin as the Inspector General;
3) contacts with the United States Attorney’s Office;
4) contacts with officials in the Executive Office of the President;
5) contacts with officials in the Office of the First Lady;
6) St. HOPE Academy;
7) Kevin Johnson;
8) or CUNY.

No records related to these matters shall be destroyed or otherwise made inaccessible to Congress.  Subsequent to the production of the documents requested above, I request that you provide a detailed briefing to my staff regarding what steps you are taking to ensure that funds are not similarly misused in the future.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.  We look forward to hearing from you by no later than June 19, 2009…

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member
Committee on Finance

-Byron York 

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In the June 23 article, "Getting to the Bottom of the AmeriCorps IG Firing," Byron York of the Washington Examiner writes that a Republican member of the board which unanimously requested that Walpin be replaced conceded that the board was not sure whether it had sufficient reason to fire him. York: "But the corporation has never said the board unanimously supported the way in which Walpin was fired. And indeed, a long discussion with a Republican member of the board suggests that while there was, in fact, agreement on firing Walpin, it's not clear whether there was sufficient cause to do it. Nor is it clear why the White House decided to lower the boom in a way that defied the law governing how inspectors general can be fired."

 

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Getting-to-the-bottom-of-the-AmeriCorps-IG-firing-48810047.html

Getting to the bottom of the AmeriCorps IG firing
By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
06/23/09 12:05 AM EDT

The board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees the AmeriCorps program, is made up of Democrats and Republicans, no matter who is in the White House. Having members from both parties is a congressionally mandated requirement for the national service agency.

In the controversy over President Obama's abrupt firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, Republicans on Capitol Hill have been asking who made the decision to get rid of Walpin, a Republican who had just finished a politically sensitive investigation in which he discovered that a prominent Obama supporter, Sacramento, Calif. Mayor Kevin Johnson, had misused hundreds of thousands of dollars of AmeriCorps money.

The corporation has told Congress that members of the board, who do not serve full-time and are not closely involved in the day-to-day operations of the corporation, unanimously supported the decision to fire Walpin. But the corporation has never said the board unanimously supported the way in which Walpin was fired.

And indeed, a long discussion with a Republican member of the board suggests that while there was, in fact, agreement on firing Walpin, it's not clear whether there was sufficient cause to do it. Nor is it clear why the White House decided to lower the boom in a way that defied the law governing how inspectors general can be fired.

Walpin and the management of the corporation clashed repeatedly over his investigations into AmeriCorps projects. The disagreements came to a head at a May 20 board meeting when Walpin, by his own account, "lectured" board members for going along with the corporation's politically appointed management and closing out his investigation of Kevin Johnson's educational organization, St. HOPE, which received about $850,000 in AmeriCorps money and misused at least half of it.

"Jerry can never get to the point where you can agree to disagree," the board member said of Walpin. "You either agree with him, or he keeps beating you up."
The board member says at one point in the meeting, Walpin seemed to have trouble concentrating. "There were long pauses on his part," the board member says. "He clearly was not able to answer the questions we were putting to him."

The White House later accused Walpin of being "confused, disoriented [and] unable to answer questions" at the meeting. Walpin concedes he was not feeling well but does not recall serious problems.

After the meeting, the board member says, "We said to the chairman, 'We want you to go over to the White House and make the recommendation that we get a new inspector general.'"

Despite the problems at the meeting, the GOP board member stresses that the decision to fire Walpin was "not one incident. It was a series of things."
Board members felt Walpin sometimes said inappropriate things, such as the time he told a group of AmeriCorps grant recipients that his fraud investigators carry firearms. Walpin says it is a joke he has told often, but some on the board didn't like it.

Members also cite an equal employment opportunity complaint in Walpin's office -- not against Walpin himself -- that Walpin dismisses as having no merit.
The member also cites Walpin's decision last January to telecommute so he could spend more time at his home in New York. "Now, more than ever, we need a real hands-on inspector general," the member said. But the board did not tell Walpin he couldn't telecommute.

There's no doubt that Walpin and the board didn't get along. But inspectors general often discover inconvenient facts -- misused money, for example -- that can embarrass organizations and their boards. There's always going to be tension between them.

In addition, there seems no question that the White House's handling of the firing -- calling Walpin on the evening of June 10 and telling him that he had one hour to resign or be terminated -- ignored the law that requires the president to give Congress 30 days' notice, and cause, before firing an inspector general. "I'm not going to comment on the process," the Republican board member said. He was open in saying that he agreed with the merits of the case against Walpin but repeated that wouldn't discuss "issues surrounding the process."

"You can draw your own conclusion," he said.

The conclusion is that there are still a lot of questions surrounding the firing of Gerald Walpin.

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 http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Whi...

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 White House: Firing AmeriCorps IG an act of "political courage"
By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
06/18/09 2:18 PM EDT

A top White House lawyer called the firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin an act of "political courage," according to House Republican aides who were in a meeting with the lawyer Wednesday.

Norman Eisen, who is the White House Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, met with staffers for Rep. Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Wednesday.  Eisen, along with another White House staffer who accompanied him, "wanted to talk broadly about inspectors general," says a GOP aide familiar with what went on at the meeting.  "When we pressed them on specific questions and documents, they said they weren't prepared to give us information on that."

In one exchange, according to the GOP aide, the White House lawyers explained that inspector general Walpin was not working well with the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, and the administration believed that IGs should work well with the leadership of their agencies.  Eisen said he knew that removing Walpin might be seen as an action that would raise questions.  "But [Eisen] said that what they did in trying to fix the situation was an act of political courage -- and 'political courage' is the phrase they used," says the aide.

Republicans, along with a few Democrats, have been concerned about the White House's methods in removing Walpin.  The law requires the president to give Congress 30 days' notice, plus the cause for the firing of an inspector general.  In Walpin's case, the White House called Walpin out of the blue, gave him one hour either to resign or be fired, and only later notified Congress, and then without giving any cause for its action. Only later, after a lone Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill, said the White House "failed to follow the proper procedure" and requested a written explanation for the firing, did the White House respond.  

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 http://www.usnews.com/blogs/washington-whispers/2009/06/24/even-politica...

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http://static.usnews.com/documents/whispers/Walpin.pdf

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According to the June 24 article "Even Political Foes Cheer on Fired AmeriCorps Inspector General Walpin," Paul Bedard of U.S. News and World Report writes that Walpin "has some pretty important friends coming to his defense. Some 145 of them, including political foes, have written Congress and the White House to refute attacks on his integrity in the controversy over why he was fired by the Obama administration." Bedard notes that the list "includes former federal judges and even Democrats like Bernie Nussbaum, former President Clinton's first White House counsel," as the group write that "All of us are unanimous in affirming Mr. Walpin's integrity and competence."

Even Political Foes Cheer on Fired AmeriCorps Inspector General Walpin
June 24, 2009 05:15 PM ET | Paul Bedard | Permanent Link | Print

By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Gerald Walpin, the former AmeriCorps inspector general who was fired after appearing confused at a meeting, has some pretty important friends coming to his defense. Some 145 of them, including political foes, have written Congress and the White House to refute attacks on his integrity in the controversy over why he was fired by the Obama administration.

"We have never seen Mr. Walpin to be 'confused, disoriented, [or] unable to answer questions,' " wrote the 145, who include former federal judges and even Democrats like Bernie Nussbaum, former President Clinton's first White House counsel.

Walpin was a Bush pick who, allies say, ran into trouble with the administration when he criticized an Obama pal. The 77-year-old was dismissed after appearing confused at a recent meeting, the administration said. A White House letter to lawmakers also alleged that Walpin had "engaged in other troubling and inappropriate conduct."

His firing came after he announced that he wasn't finished with a probe into alleged misuse of federal grants to a school founded by Kevin Johnson, an Obama supporter, mayor of Sacramento, Calif., and former NBA star.

In their letter, the 145 say that the administration's description of Walpin is way out of character. "All of us are unanimous in affirming Mr. Walpin's integrity and competence," they wrote.