From the Wall Street Journal:
“The White House Fires a Watchdog
The curious case of the inspector general and a Presidential ally.”
“President Obama swept to office on the promise of a new kind of politics, but then how do you explain last week’s dismissal of federal Inspector General Gerald Walpin for the crime of trying to protect taxpayer dollars? This is a case that smells of political favoritism and Chicago rules.
A George W. Bush appointee, Mr. Walpin has since 2007 been the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees such subsidized volunteer programs as AmeriCorps. In April 2008 the Corporation asked Mr. Walpin to investigate reports of irregularities at St. HOPE, a California nonprofit run by former NBA star and Obama supporter Kevin Johnson. St. HOPE had received an $850,000 AmeriCorps grant, which was supposed to go for three purposes: tutoring for Sacramento-area students; the redevelopment of several buildings; and theater and art programs.”
“Mr. Walpin’s investigators discovered that the money had been used instead to pad staff salaries, meddle politically in a school-board election, and have AmeriCorps members perform personal services for Mr. Johnson, including washing his car.
At the end of May, Mr. Walpin’s office recommended that Mr. Johnson, an assistant and St. HOPE itself be “suspended” from receiving federal funds. The Corporation’s official charged with suspensions agreed, and in September the suspension letters went out. Mr. Walpin’s office also sent a civil and/or criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.”
“If this seems like small beer, keep in mind that Mr. Obama promised to carefully watch how every stimulus dollar is spent. In this case, the evidence suggests that his White House fired a public official who refused to roll over to protect a Presidential crony.”
From Fox news:
“June 16, 2009
Obama Accuses Fired Inspector General of AmeriCorps of Being “Confused, Disoriented”
WASHINGTON – Responding to criticism from a Senate Democratic ally, President Obama for the first time explained why he fired the Inspector General of the AmeriCorps without the 30-day notification required by law, calling Gerald Walpin so “confused” and “disoriented” that there was reason to question “his capacity to serve.”
In a letter to the bi-partisan leaders of the Senate Committee that oversees AmeriCorps, Obama listed these alleged defects in Walpin’s leadership as an Inspector General.
* Removed after unanimous request from the AmeriCorps board of directors”
“Hours before, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, criticized Obama for failing to specify why he fired Walpin.
“The White House has failed to follow the proper procedure in notifying Congress as to the removal of the Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service,” McCaskill said in a statement. “The legislation which was passed last year requires that the president give a reason for the removal. ‘Loss of confidence’ is not a sufficient reason. I’m hopeful the White House will provide a more substantive rationale, in writing, as quickly as possible.”
Obama voted for the legislation requiring specific notification to Congress of the reasons to dismiss an inspector general. Any move to fire an inspector general requires 30-days notice. Obama voted for the law to strengthen the independence of inspectors general.
Walpin led a 2008 investigation into allegations of misused taxpayer funds distributed by AmeriCorps to the St. HOPE Academy of Sacramento, founded in 1989 by Obama supporter and former NBA player Kevin Johnson. Walpin said Johnson, now mayor of Sacramento, misused roughly $850,000 in AmeriCorps funds. His referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not result in the filing of criminal charges. But St. HOPE officials agreed, via a settlement, to repay half of its AmeriCorps grants.”
“Republicans also have asked what role, if any, First Lady Michelle Obama played in Walpin’s firing. The White House denies Mrs. Obama had any voice in Walpin’s future with the agency. Republicans began to question Mrs. Obama’s role after press reports indicated she was taking a strong interest in AmeriCorps activities and when her former chief of staff, Jackie Norris, became a “senior adviser” to the Corporation for National and Community Service, also known as AmeriCorps.”
Glenn Beck interview with Gerald Walpin:
GERALD WALPIN, FMR. INSPECTOR GENERAL: I am fine. Thank you, and glad to be here.
BECK: OK. I read this story. You were in your car. You get a phone call from the White House.
BECK: Any idea that they were going to ask you to resign?
WALPIN: No, because I thought they were calling me — I thought the White House had called me already three, four times already in the last two weeks, because I happened to be — you might disagree with this — a supporter of Sonia Sotomayor, even though I’m conservative.
WALPIN: And they had asked me for help on that and to support her, and I was doing that. So, I thought this was the same phone call.
BECK: OK. And you — you are a conservative.
BECK: But you’re not — I mean, obviously, you’re endorsing Sotomayor, so you’re — you know, you’re an open-minded guy and you have gone after Republicans in the past?
WALPIN: Oh yes, I have.
BECK: Who have you gone after?
WALPIN: Well, I prosecuted Roy Cohn, for example. I was also disclosed as the person responsible for the indictments against Nixon’s Cabinet members Mitchell and Stans.
BECK: So, you’re not a — you’re not a Republican hack or anything like that?
WALPIN: Well, I believe when I’m doing my work, I call the cards as they come out.
BECK: OK. So, gosh, he hasn’t given you a reason on why you have been terminated.
BECK: I have read the letter. It doesn’t — it just does — it says it just basically that he doesn’t have faith in you.
WALPIN: Well, that’s a conclusion. That’s not a reason.
BECK: Now, you not only went after one of his good friends, Kevin Johnson, but you’re after going after CUNY, which is City University of New York.
WALPIN: Which is a good university — and, in fact, I’m an alumnus of it — and is doing a good job in getting teachers.
But the problem is, the AmeriCorps people have put almost $80 million into that program, even though the teachers at CUNY agree to be teachers before they’re even told that there is an opportunity to make some money by joining AmeriCorps.
BECK: So, your job, as I understand it, is to track down money that is being wasted or is being misused.
BECK: My tax dollars, Erin’s tax dollars, everyone’s tax dollars.
WALPIN: That is correct. The AmeriCorps program and the other agency programs and services I believe are great as long as they are properly managed and the money is not abused or misused.
BECK: Why do you think this is happening?
WALPIN: I can only say that I became a thorn in the side of someone, and because I was doing my job and I was fired for doing my job.
And by the way, the investigation, for example, of Johnson, was started by the agency itself. AmeriCorps management called us and asked us to investigate reports they had heard that there was wrongdoing, and we…
BECK: Were you ever pressured to stop it?
BECK: Were you ever…
BECK: Did anybody — I mean, what makes you think…
WALPIN: The only thing — the only thing that had came up was after Johnson was elected mayor, after the stimulus money came in, there was great media and political pressure to get him off the hook and get his suspension lifted.
BECK: This happened on Thursday. Do you remember the case when…
WALPIN: Wednesday night.
BECK: Wednesday night. Do you remember the case when George Bush fired those attorneys which he had the right to do?
WALPIN: They were serving at his…
BECK: At his discretion.
BECK: Yes. You are not serving at the president’s discretion.
WALPIN: Only he can — under the statute which is intended to protect the independence of inspector generals, I could be terminated only if he gives 30 days advance notice and gives the reason for it to Congress.
BECK: Got it. So, it’s all open and everybody knows.
WALPIN: That’s correct.
BECK: Right. OK. That way you are truly independent.
BECK: Because if somebody doesn’t — if somebody doesn’t — if somebody can put pressure on you, well, then, you’re no good to anybody.
WALPIN: That is correct.
BECK: OK. So…
WALPIN: And by the way, the fact that pressure was placed on me and that I was terminated is going to have a chilling effect on all the other inspectors general.
BECK: Why do you say that?
WALPIN: Because they know that if they do something wrong to somebody who is liked by somebody else or for whatever reason, they can be terminated, too.
BECK: Are you familiar with RAT, the new thing under the stimulus package?
Is Byron still on with us? Byron?
YORK: Yes, here I am.
BECK: Can you explain RAT — the thing tucked into the stimulus package that no one wants to claim now?
YORK: This is a Recovery Accountability and Transparency board. And, you know, one of the things Democrat sponsors of the $787 billion stimulus bill did was promised it would all be transparent and there would be a lot of accountability. So, they created this new board.
The problem was the board was given the power to tell inspectors general to conduct an investigation or probably, more importantly, to not conduct investigations.
Senator Charles Grassley, who is the Republican senator who is kind of a guardian angel of inspectors general got very concerned about that and made some noise about it, but couldn’t stop it from being in the bill. So, there is possibly another threat to the independence of inspectors general.
BECK: What do you think about that?
WALPIN: I now know what you were talking about, and that’s a horrible provision in the statute.
BECK: Why would they do it?
WALPIN: Why? I think, in view of the fact that they terminated me, that they don’t want inspectors generals doing the job that they were hired to do — which is to objectively look at the facts and determine whether there is waste, fraud and abuse.
BECK: How long you been in government?
WALPIN: On this stint? Just 2 1/2 years.
BECK: How long total? I mean, you…
WALPIN: Oh, I’ve been — I was a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorneys Office in New York, where, as I said, I prosecuted Roy Cohn, and I — so, I have had over 10 years of government service, but I was in private practice when President Bush’s White House called me.
BECK: Have you seen anything like this before?
WALPIN: No. This is shocking. I know of no other inspector general who has been terminated on this method, and the call to me — look, as you can tell, I’m not a young guy and I didn’t need this. But I felt that I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I just resigned to this pressure.
BECK: What’s your next step?
WALPIN: Oh, I’m considering all alternatives. And what I think is most important is that the public know, because as Franklin Roosevelt said, the great — sunshine is the greatest…
WALPIN: What was the word?
BECK: I know what you’re saying…
WALPIN: I want the public to know and I want other inspectors general to know that they can stand up, too.
BECK: Thank you, sir.
WALPIN: Thank you.