Just six months into his presidency, President Barack Obama's administration is the target of a federal lawsuit, and that by a civil servant who alleges he was dismissed from his post in violation of the requirements of a law that Barack Obama himself once sponsored in the Senate.
Yet despite all this, the July 21 Washington Post print edition failed to carry the story, directing readers with this 39-word teaser atop page A15 (The Fed Page) to a Post blog:
Former Inspector General Files Suit: Gerald Walpin, an inspector general who was fired last month by the Obama administration, has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, arguing that his removal was unlawful. Read more at washingtonpost.com/federaleye.
Here's an excerpt from Washington Post staffer Ed O'Keefe's July 20 Federal Eye blog post, "Fired IG Gerald Walpin Files Suit":
"The inspector general fired last month by President Obama has filed suit in federal court seeking reinstatement to his job as top watchdog at the Corporation for National and Community Service."
In a suit filed late Friday at U.S. District Court in Washington, Gerald Walpin argued his removal was unlawful because it violated protections afforded to inspectors general by the 2008 Inspector General Act. The law states that the president must inform lawmakers 30 days before an inspector general's removal and must cite reasons for the firing. Walpin and Republican critics allege the White House did not follow the law, even though then-Sen. Obama co-sponsored the legislation.
“I am bringing this lawsuit primarily to protect the system of inspectors general, which cannot remain viable without insulation from political and other interference," Walpin said in a statement. "While I also am troubled at the mud-slinging lengths those who sought my removal have gone to attempt, belatedly, to rationalize their actions, the most important objective of this lawsuit is to prevent a successful illegal removal of one inspector general from being used as a precedent for other similar interferences."
Walpin's suit names three top CNCS officials as defendants: Acting CEO Nicola O. Goren, Human Resources Director Raymond Limon and General Counsel Frank Trinity. Dozens of memos, e-mails and meeting notes released in early July revealed the often contentious relationship between Walpin, Goren and Trinity that ended with his June dismissal.
In response, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, "The administration has complied fully with the Inspector General Reform Act. The bipartisan leadership of the Senate committee that oversees IG's agrees. We strongly believe these claims are without merit and will be rejected by the courts."
Following criticism from a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers concerned about Walpin's dismissal, the White House sent lawmakers a letter explaining that he appeared confused, disoriented and unable to answer questions at a late May agency board meeting. Since then, the White House Counsel's Office and CNCS officials have presented lawmakers with other cases of allegedly improper or questionable behavior, including several memos, e-mails and a mock newsletter that included sexually- and racially-insensitive material.